I’m a smiler.  I smile at everybody I can.

I wasn’t always this way, though.  I used to go through life looking at my shoes.  Living in the bubble that modern man has built around himself.  Avoiding eye contact whenever possible.  Because there was something about meeting somebody else’s eyes that would instantly disarm me.  Make me vulnerable in some way.  There’s always the chance that they’d throw me a dirty look.  Or smirk.  Or – and this one’s most likely – they’d look away, every bit as uncomfortable as I was at having invaded someone’s personal space in such a distant – yet intimate – way.

The isolation we live in these days can be overwhelming.  Sure, we have social networking to make up the fact that we’re pretty independent, constantly busy, constantly occupied somehow.  But I know when I leave home to run errands, go to the Dr., whatever, there’s something that happens.  I want close myself off.  I want to ignore the mass of humanity around me, to get through my day with as little interaction and as little hassle as possible.  And people, we all know, are the greatest causes of hassle.

But one day I got sick of this mindset. It hit me in a massive, “No, duh!” moment that every single one of us is important.  Every single one of us was made perfectly by our Creator with purpose and intention.  There isn’t a life on this earth that exists on accident – even though sometimes we choose to refer to children that way.  All of us are precious.  All of us are enduring some kind of struggle.  And whether or not we know it, or feel it, all of us are loved, in a way that is simply not fathomable.

Scales started falling from my eyes.  I realized the people I was avoiding were just like me: Living life.  Struggling in some way.  Afraid of a dirty look, a smirk, or a quick glance away that says, “Let’s just pretend we didn’t see each other.  Life’s easier that way.”

As people, we all have some pretty basic needs.  Food.  Clothing.  Shelter.  But most importantly, love.

I don’t know how to properly love the masses in this world.  There are so many hurting folks out there.  Hurting in ways that I absolutely cannot relate to.  There is so much heartache around this globe and in my own backyard.  Most of it I have no idea how to even begin to address.

But I don’t look away anymore.  Whether it’s a stranger in the park, a homeless person begging, a barista at my coffee shop, the checker at the grocery store – whoever, whenever, wherever – I meet their eyes and smile.  Because deep down, at our most basic level, we are the same.  We need love.  And it’s such an easy thing to give, even if smiling is just a small, fleeting way to give it.


33 thoughts on “Smiling

  1. gingercalem says:

    Great post. Giving away a smile is an easy and precious gift. Usually, you’ll get your gift given right back to you. And, for the times you don’t, then your smile to them is probably more needed than ever!

    *SMILE* 🙂

  2. Anthony V. Toscano says:

    Myndi, You amaze me. I wish I’d understood myself so well as you do when I was young and shy.

    And by the way, I’d go one step farther than you when you say, “I realized the people I was avoiding were just like me . . .” Oftentimes I suspect that we are not individuals — not in the way we fancy ourselves to be — but rather each one of us is an aspect of the one “person” named Humanity.

    You own a gift, Myndi Shafer. Matter of fact, you *are* a gift.

  3. Keri Mathews says:

    Excellent post. I currently avoid eye contact at all costs. I used to smile at people, but I’d get discouraged when they didn’t smile back. The fact that we are all people who need encouragement, even in the way of a stranger’s smile, has been on my mind lately, but I haven’t used that knowledge to change my behavior. Kudos to you for taking that opportunity to make someone’s day a little bit better 🙂

  4. Emily says:

    I have to agree with Anthony, Myn, you are and always have been a gift. That is the lovely thing; every single person in the world is a wonderful and valuable gift. A genuine smile, straight from one heart to another will always be a blessing to both giver and receiver.

  5. deborahjhughes says:

    Totally agree with you!! I’ve noticed that smiles really do seem to add an immediate “pick me up” for me and for the person to whom I am smiling. I love it when someone smiles at me so I KNOW they gotta enjoy it too. Thanks for reminding me that I need to do it more often. Spread the love. Blessings!!

  6. asraidevin says:

    I’m guilty of the looking down. In my own world, not wanting to engage.

    You are right just a smile can give everyone a sense of connection in an otherwise isolated world. Doesn’t mean you have to be everyone’s best friend either.

  7. Rachel Funk Heller says:

    Hi Myndi, I’m smiling at you from across the Pacific Ocean! It’s funny, this summer I was in New York City for Thrillerfest and after listening to Bob Mayer talking about being a Warrior Writer I felt so great and so happy to be who I was at that moment, that I went for a walk and decided to smile at every New Yorker who would take the chance to look at me. I was smiling like a loon as I wandered through Times Square at midnight. I guess I fit in. Thanks for another great post.

  8. shannon esposito (@soesposito) says:

    So true! I’ve struggled on and off with clinical depression and one of the first things I noticed when I finally got medicated was I stopped trying to avoid the people around me. I’d go to the grocery store and actually *gasp* talk to the cashier. It was a life-changer for me. Now, I talk to everyone, smile at everyone (even more so after a glass of wine 🙂 It’s fabulous feeling so connected to the world and the other unique beings around me!

  9. Jennifer L. Oliver says:

    Awesome post, Myndi! So many times we get hung up in what is going on inside our own minds and our own lives that we forget there are other people out there who may need what we have to offer. A kind word, a hug, and even a warm smile can do wonders for someone without us even having to try.
    I’m glad you’re smiling!

  10. Debra Kristi says:

    Wonderful post! Sounds like you and I subscribe to the same point of view. I also used to be an avoider, looking down a lot. But not anymore! It feels great greeting people and conversing with them, be it at the check-out line or wherever. It lifts everyone’s spirits and they remember you for it. I even say “Hi” to those that look grumpy and don’t return the salutation. That’s okay by me, I hope it sinks in and they feel better for it later.

    What a beautiful person you are Myndi. What a great peek into your heart this post was. Keep smiling!

  11. susielindau says:

    This is so true! I am from the midwest where people are so friendly. When I moved West, I gradually changed until one day I noticed, As soon as I became conscious of my bad habit, I went back to making eye contact. It has often created an opportunity for conversation. I am very friendly anyway!!
    Great post~

  12. Thomas (@HillsboroWriter) says:

    My neighborhood is not exactly a friendly place — Anglos and Hispanics don’t seem to mix even though we each make up about half the neighborhood. It might be language, it might be a form or racism, or it might just be modern life. It’s a relatively poor neighborhood in a not-so-poor, distant suburb.

    I walk my dog around the neighborhood every day — sometimes shorter, others longer and always try to vary our route. On those walks, I make a conscious effort to say hello to as many people as possible. No, I don’t always bother with those who have earbuds in — seems they don’t want to be part of the world — but for the rest I smile and say hello, good evening, or hey as seems appropriate.

    Very rarely do they ignore and not return my greeting. Most reply in English and once in a while in Spanish. I don’t often see the same people more than once. But since I’ve started doing this, the neighborhood seems a lot more friendly. Did I start something or has my perception changed since I changed my own behavior?

    • Myndi stray sock away from insanity. says:

      Good question. Maybe it could be a little of both. When we reach out, I definitely think it changes our own perceptions – reminds us that deep down, we’re all the same, and that we’re not alone. But sometimes little things can be really powerful – your friendly words to strangers could have a trickle-down effect, right? Someone else’s day made better because of your willingness to connect, even in brief ways, could encourage someone else to do the same. Sure, you might not see the same people often, but we’re all more inter-connected than we can see from our singular perspective.

      Very. Freaking. Cool.

  13. Fabio Bueno says:

    Oh, Myndi, I’m like your “before” picture: I hardly smile. I don’t have a picture of me smiling to use as my online avatar. I so need to learn to smile. After reading this, I believe there’s still hope for me.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s