This past winter, I was riding the bus consistently to a new job in a new city. I'm a nurse, and the transition was stressful, and the shifts were long and the mornings were dark, early, damp, and cold. There was a woman who would ride the same bus at the same time as me, and although we never exchanged a word, she has made a lasting impact on me, and I find myself thinking of her often. I wanted to share my experience with you ladies.
This woman was an average woman, likely in her 50s, with a rather plain face, plain clothes, and sometimes rather disheveled. She often sat across from me, with muddy rain boots, and hair slightly askew from wind and rain. Every other person on the bus was either sleeping, or on their phone, scowling, irritable, and cold.
But this woman wore a smile. Her expression was always soft, inviting, friendly, and she had a peaceful presence about her that was mesmerizing and downright fascinating. She was beautiful, warm, and kind. She never looked impatient, she never scowled down at a phone screen, she would not look away when I met her gaze but would smile sweetly at me, and I would smile back. We shared these rides together in silence, and I found myself smiling too. I would look out the window as the first traces of light came up through the treetops, and I would find stillness in an otherwise stressful commute.
Then, as weeks passed, I noticed a shift in my own behavior. I noticed myself smiling at work, among coworkers who were stressed, anxious, and exhausted. I noticed that I could make the people around me laugh, and smile too, and maybe even complain less. My patients seemed to smile more as well, despite their suffering and fear. I noticed that I would catch myself smiling while standing in line at the grocery store, or while doing the dishes, or weeding. I would smile in the car, when going on rides with my partner.
And as the world has changed through this pandemic, as people have begun social distancing, and fearing not only the virus but one another, smiles have seemed to disappear altogether, mask or no mask.
Whether you cover your face or not, smile more. Smile for yourself, smile with your eyes. It will change your life, it might change someone else's. It is feminine, it is gentle, it is kind. It seems we need more of that these days than ever.