The Unconditional Smile
I believe in the magic of a smile between strangers. A smile from a stranger means so much. It says, “I don’t know you, but I’m sure you’ve got problems, too. Here’s a smile to brighten your day.” Of course that’s only possible if eye contact is made. I’ve noticed that a lot of people wearing headsets seem to think that they’ve suddenly become invisible (or that the rest of us have) and don’t acknowledge anything outside their own realm of existence. I realize that headsets are an effective way to ward off outside conversation, but they don’t impair your vision.
I remember one incident in particular when my smile was rewarded with larger dividends than I could have hoped for. I was at the Salt Lake City Airport on a busy Friday night waiting for my son, Gabriel, to arrive from Chicago. I had arrived an hour early to give myself plenty of time to find a parking space and the correct terminal. I noticed some seats and plopped myself down with relief. Pulling a book out of my purse, I prepared to occupy myself during the long hour ahead. Before opening it, I glanced up briefly at the shuffling mass of humanity passing before me.
In the distance, being swept along by the crowd, a young woman wearing a Middle Eastern scarf on her head grabbed my attention. (I have an insatiable curiosity about foreign culture). In spite of the bustling mass of people between us, she caught my gaze immediately and we both responded with a friendly smile. Then I lowered my eyes and opened my book. Surprisingly, ten seconds later she was standing in front of me asking if I was saving the seat next to me. Flattered, I said, “No,no…go ahead. Have a seat.”
“Thank you,” she smiled gratefully, and a little out of breath.
During the next hour I learned that she was a student at the University of Utah where she had met her husband. He had been deployed immediately after they were married and they hadn’t seen much of each other during their first year together. I sympathized with her, but she admitted she was pretty independent and could take care of herself. I’m sure she was. She would have to be to leave her native country and seek an education in a foreign culture. I had seen many of these young women on my own university campus, but they weren’t in any of my classes, and outside of class they kept to themselves. Now suddenly, here was this friendly young Iranian woman telling me all about her life. I felt honored.
Smiles between friends are warm and wonderful, but smiles between strangers are unconditional. And isn’t that wonderful!
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