I was going to write this blog ages ago, way before the alien came, but never got round to it. But when an alien comes along it pushes things forward and now what I was going to say means so much more to me…
My mam has always taught me to smile at strangers; ‘it might be the only smile that person will get all day or all week’. So I do. I get eye contact and I smile – some smile back, some look away, some scrunch up their face thinking I’m weird, others look back after passing me to make sure I wasn’t someone they knew. Either way I smile. I see others do it and when it happens to me I genuinely feel a little bit of positivity has been thrown my way.
Growing up with my own kind of alien – don’t worry I have very much made my peace with my alien, he just makes me clumsy, walk like I’m drunk and do things arse-ways round. In the grand scheme of things, my alien is not bad at all. Anyway, even to this day, at 27 I still have strangers looking at me, not making eye contact to smile, but rather avoid eye contact in favour of tilting their heads and musing why I am walking so weirdly, to watch with great curiosity from their peripheral vision how I butter my fruit toast (that is currently happening now…yes I’m talking about you in coach D on the 9:48 from york to newcastle…can you see this out of the corner of your eye??), question why I need a cardboard carrier for my two cups of coffee, snigger as I cut my food in restaurants and so on. Meh!
Both encounters start the exact same way – two strangers who look at each other, who don’t know what the other is going through, but in that moment there is a choice – to smile or to stare.
Smile and perhaps give the gift of positivity or have it ignored (either way you tried) or stare and run the risk of bringing attention to the one thing that is already hindering that stranger. Stare at the alien or smile through the little bugger!
In our own little way we can help each other.
This is by no means me saying always smile and smile at everyone and start a smile revolution – there are times when you don’t want to or times when you physically can’t (with the alien we have had a number of those times recently), but when you can and you have the capacity, then do.
I’ve already said how grateful I am to those people around us who do smile, but also those who didn’t stare when my mam looked like some War Horse reject when trying to operate her crutches, who looked away when we cried to give us privacy and then smiled to give us a tissue, to the freeman hospital staff who have humour, to those who I know will smile the biggest smile ever when my mam returns home, who will giggle with us when she complains about her operation because she ‘already finds it hard enough getting trousers that fit her’ and to those strangers I don’t know now and will never really know, but will just choose to smile at me and my family at just the right time.
In a world so focused on cost, price and value being at the forefront, remember a smile costs nothing, but can be worth more than you’d ever know. I paraphrased that from my mam – I’ll let her take the credit!