(Photo Contributed by Marlena Groomer)
“Let us always meet each other with a smile, for the smile is the beginning of love.” – Mother Teresa
I love this quote because of the basic simplicity of its message which is more impactful because of the remarkable contributions that the author had on so many during her lifetime. Despite whatever I try to accomplish for others through words or acts, I swim through waves of humility and experience levels of inadequacy for what I failed to do when I hear Mother Teresa’s name. In the end though while avoiding any unnecessary guilt, I think that’s a good thing because her legacy reminds me of the kindness that I should continually attempt to afford myself and at a minimum, those immediately around me. Maybe in doing so, that kindness just might extend to a larger community through displays ranging from the simplest to the grandest acts of generosity. Or maybe that’s just the utopian dream that I continue to maintain that arises from the optimism I hold for MY world and those that walk in it.
I’ve had the foregoing quote sitting in my library waiting for something to trigger a fundamental message that I wanted to convey to you guys. Then a casual exchange a couple days ago reminded me of how the simplest acts can have a notable impact, even for a only a small portion, on those 1,440 minutes that are part of the foundation of the daily exercise of our collaborative interactions with our fellow mortals.
So what happened you ask, or maybe you don’t, but I’ll tell you anyway. Simply put, I was at the gym walking away from a machine towards the door and there was a lady who happened to be on a life-step working out. I glanced her way for a microsecond and returned to thoughts that in retrospect, must not have meant that much because I don’t have a lasting memory of what they entailed. But here’s what didn’t register because of unnecessary distractions that invaded what should have been an awareness of the simple gesture that was being afforded to me by that nice lady and I’m somewhat disappointed in myself that I almost missed it. Thankfully, I redirected my gaze where it should have remained beyond that microsecond and realized that offered my way, for whatever reason, was a pleasant smile from her that must have been there since my initial glance caught her attention. Regrettably, I could have missed it had I remained unaware of where I actually was, which I’ve said before is generally more important than where I’m not!
So here’s what happened next. I escaped from what I was thinking about (which again was unimportant) and I did the best thing I could offer in return: I caught her eye and smiled back without a word being exchanged as I walked by! I’m kind of glad I didn’t open my BIG mouth since I probably devalue the simple, basic elegance of a moment with words that don’t need to be added to them.
So here’s what I took from her smile and mine in return and hopefully I get this message across to you because I think it’s valuable. That simple exchange of courtesy and kindness gave birth to a different and better part of my day that didn’t exist before and sadly, it’s something that might have escaped me a few years back if I hadn’t begun to open and increase my awareness to the essential beauty of my surroundings. I do like and need solitude at the appropriate times but the genesis of my appreciation of this life I lead begins, on so many figurative celestial tracts of existence, with the kindness afforded to me and what I attempt to provide to others.
I’ve limited my crusade for subjective “happiness” because I’m afraid of whose happiness will suffer as a consequence. I truly have rewritten my script regarding the pantheon of happiness I though I needed to obtain and what I needed to do to “possess” it. For now my goals are less tangible with my actions being less scripted and predictable, and at the same time more organic, genuine, and palpable as they relate to myself and others.
So the preface to my rewritten script: Be objectively kind and good to myself and hopefully through evolution and/or additional effort, kind and good to others. From that basic foundation, the verse and chapters will be filled with increased levels of internal peace that hopefully leads to an external fulfillment of the better parts of a life that is inescapably fashioned to conclude outside of our control and precise calculation. Hopefully in the end, the “perfection” of happiness that has continually changed and been modified over time will just end up “perfect” at the conclusion of each plot and sub-plot I’m a participant of.
So I’ll end with the appropriate quote I just read yesterday. “Be kind whenever possible. It’s always possible.” The Dalai Lama. The opportunities are abundant to give birth to the better part of someone else’s day along with our own and you know what? It really takes so little on our parts as I was just recently reminded and even though I haven’t seen that sweet lady since then, that one time just happened to be more than enough!