Wednesday, 6 July 2011

A Smile from a Stranger.

A couple of months ago, I was on a routine car journey, travelling along a busy street in town when something out of the ordinary happened.
    Firstly, I should explain that pedestrians wishing the cross this busy street usually wait at an island in the road for an opportune gap in the traffic.  I have become so accustomed to there always being someone on this island that I have developed an automatic reflex of slowing down to allow pedestrians to cross here without giving it much thought. I'm usually in mid-conversation with the kids or singing along to the radio when I give the waiting person a quick gesture of my hand or a flash of the headlights.  People generally respond with a wave of the hand or a nod of the head by way of a thank you.
    This particular mundane journey, however, has wedged itself into my memory because the man that I gestured to cross the road stunned me with his gratitude.  It was nothing over the top.  He didn't bow down in worship or blow me kisses; that would've made me feel uncomfortable.  No, it was just his smile.  It was a genuine smile.  And it hit me like a bolt of lightning.
    As I drove on, I was left feeling very thoughtful and analytical.  Why did I feel such a reaction to this guy's smile?  It wasn't a physical attraction or a romantic moment, although it definitely felt uplifting and addictive.  But then, people smile all the time, right?  Wrong.  Within the next hour of 'people watching' I came to realise that a genuine, tooth-revealing, eye-sparkling smile from a complete stranger is actually quite a rare thing.  Even to have made eye contact with this guy was something of an achievement.  That's not to say that common courtesy is dead; it's not.  People still hold doors open and say thank you to drivers at a zebra crossing, but do they do it with a smile?
    Has being so connected with the world through text messaging and social media made us less social on the street?  I wonder how many people miss the opportunity to smile at a stranger because they are busy texting or tweeting a smiley face to someone on their phone!
    I have certainly been made more aware of how I interact with strangers.  I too am guilty of being so wrapped up in my own busy life to remember that my facial expression makes a difference to a stranger on the street.  I am going to do my best to change this though, one smile at a time.


  1. Your post reminded of a toll-taker at a small PA Turnpike interchange. I often saw him in the morning when I rushed off to work after a harried early morning getting the kids up, dressed, and off to the sitter. This man not only gave me a smile but greeted me sincerely and always had a pleasant word or two to say. He probably greeted every driver the same way, but he made it personal. I can't tell you how often he uplifted my mood on a particularly difficult morning. He taught me how much a smile can mean, and I have tried to gift others with my smile as he gifted me.

  2. Thanks for being the first to comment on my blog!
    The guy you speak of sounds like a truly inspirational character, especially as his job probably involves so many people grumbling about the toll charges. People like him definitely make the world a better place.

  3. It's amazing how much something as simple as a smile can brighten your day! Fab blog post :o)

    Thanks for visiting Coffee and Roses and for your lovely comment on my book trailer! If you'd like to email me your address at I'll send you a copy of my album :o)

    Miranda x

  4. Thanks so much Miranda. I can't wait to listen to your album.

  5. I really appreciate your positive perspective! Thanks for sharing!

  6. Thanks for your comment, Kiki. You're very welcome.