I spoke with a friend earlier this week. I always smile when I speak with him. I called as soon as I had exited the Ogilvie Transportation Center on my way to work. I don’t usually talk during my brief walk over the Chicago River because I like to listen and I love to people watch. When I reached my office he said, it sounds like you are indoors now and he lamented over not living in the city any more.
“I love the noise,” he said.
I agreed. Neither of us walks through the city with earbuds. We just soak it in. I find simple joy in the noise and movement of the city. I appreciate how it makes me happy every morning and afternoon. I don’t hide it.
Earlier this week, I approached a worker at a lunch counter, and he smiled. Really smiled. Ear to ear smile. I made eye contact with him six or seven times in the course of the 1-minute interaction. I felt my smile get larger at every contact. I walked out of the food hall with such a huge grin, I didn’t know what to make of it. And I asked myself, why did he smile at me, which is when I realized he smiled back. His smile was a reciprocation. I walked toward him already smiling.
I decided to repeat that effort. All week, at every instance, as I walked through the city, through the train cars, over the river and anywhere outside I made eye contact with lots of strangers. When our eyes locked I smiled at each one. In return I received blank stares and puzzled looks, but for the most part I received a smile in return. I even received a few winks.
Writing this reminded me of this day with Bridget a couple of years ago. She and her cousins traversed Six Flags moving from coaster to coaster. I took these pictures in the late afternoon. My kid, who never lets me take her picture, could not frown if she tried. I posted this on Facebook at that time, with a few simple words: “that’s my kid, and that’s what happy looks like”.
Looking at Bridget’s smiles and thinking of all the smiles I gave away this week, I’ve found a great example of giving and receiving. When we look at the world with joy in our hearts, it’s contagious to those who are open to receiving. And it feels even more joyful when a simple joyful smile is returned in-kind.