By Elizabeth Hayford, Director of Missions Administration
Recently I was challenged to be intentional about smiling for a whole week. Although not a difficult task for me, I embraced fully the idea to actually stop, smile and acknowledge someone else. From the gym to the grocery store to my co workers and family, I embraced the opportunity to devote 3 to 5 seconds to share a friendly smile.
In my normal routine, I often seek ways to be in solitude and introverted. Spending much of my day answering phones and greeting people, I often crave the times I can just go through the motions of every day stuff and avoid contact. But this week I had to look up, make eye contact and genuinely smile. A week to step a little out of myself and be part of what was around me.
What I found was a confirmation that we like to be connected to each other even in a brief way. I liked how the reaction I received was appreciative and warm and not taken aback or annoyed. Even with my own teenager, the presence of my own smile brought on a few more smiles from her!
I also liked the way a smile opened the door to say a few words. I work out with an early crowd at the gym each morning between 5 and 6am. This smile experiment gave me the chance to connect in a place where we mostly look past each other. Instead it was this affirmation of presence in the early morning that led to a few “good mornings,” and a small conversation with one of the regulars. I now know he has to encourage himself out of bed as much as I do. And I know the woman at the desk struggles with mornings, too, but has a new car that makes the drive to work easier. So, nothing life changing in making a new relationship, but there is a beginning of a sense of community for me. And the cool thing was that thinking about that smile just made me smile more and longer.
That was the discovery that has stayed with me. That idea of community. We all long to be independent, to guard our freedom and privacy. And yet, there is a sense of wanting to find a connection, a small identification with someone else that lets you know that you are noticed. And isn’t that so true? No matter if we are in sweaty gym clothes, casual hang out clothes, or our Sunday best, we want to find that person who offers a smile, affirms our presence and maybe even says, “hi.”
I encourage you, especially as we approach the holiday season, to try out the smile challenge and look at someone and give them your best toothy grin. Who knows what this may do for someone else. Not to mention you.