So the other day I went for a walk, something I have been in the habit of doing every evening as a way to clear my mind. As I was walking, I noticed a lot of people had set out to do the same thing. Some of the people I passed seemed frustrated, others seemed lost in their thoughts, kind of like myself, and others just seemed stressed about something almost to the point of looking angry. As I noticed these different emotions on people’s faces, I came to realize that none of them really took the time to just glance at each other and smile, or take a second to acknowledge their presence.
Now, I get it, people go to work and come home stressed, or deal with various emotional and mental problems. Many have financial problems, or relationship problems and so on. Unfortunately that is life, it’s not perfect. So we shouldn’t expect happy people walking around all the time.
Having made these observations, it made me wonder, what if they had looked up for a second, and glanced over at the other person walking in the opposite direction and just smiled, how much of a difference would that have made in that person’s mood, or thought process at that time? My curiosity got the better of me, and I set out to do an experiment. The next time I left my house for my usual evening walk, I made it a point to make eye contact and smile for just a few seconds at every individual I passed on the street. Some did not even bother to look at me which was fine, but guess what reactions I got in return from those who did as a result of this one simple act!
The majority of individuals who noticed actually smiled back, some of them even went as far as to greet me and say ‘Hello’, or ‘How is it going?” Does that surprise you? A few of course looked at me awkwardly and kept walking, probably thinking in their heads, ‘Why is this dude smiling at me, gosh I mean, that is so weird!’ But the point of this exercise was to really gauge the reactions of those who did respond to the smile and the head nod, and observe their reactions. My thinking was, if I could bring a smile to even one person’s face, but performing this simple gesture, then I may have helped lighten up someone’s day or mood at that time. I notice this problem in a lot of urban environments actually more than suburban, but I have also noticed this simple act diminish slowly year after year, decade after decade!
We live in an age where everything moves so rapidly. People rush to work in the morning, try to meet unrealistic deadlines, rush back from work to meet family obligations. They are constantly bombarded with information overload, deadlines, meetings, attending conferences, and the day to day stresses of life to the point where they don’t get a chance to think about taking the time out to just relax and put a smile on their face. On the other hand, there are those individuals, who have cracked the code when it comes to that pursuit of happiness in life, and do walk around with a nice broad smile on their face, their backs and shoulders straight, exuding confidence as if to show that there is nothing or nobody that can stop them from being happy, pursuing their dreams, and achieving their goals. But these types of people are few and far between.
So what is the lesson to learn from this simple observation? Don’t be selfish, don’t think that you are the only one in this world with problems, we all live on this planet and share the same resources, stresses of life, emotional ups and downs and traumas. We are all human, we have been around for thousands of years as a species, we have somehow managed to evolve to get to where we are today, and we should also try to find ways to deal with these imbalances in our lives. We may have very individualistic issues, nonetheless, we all face them every day of our lives, and we all try to work through these problems as well. So since we are all in this together, why not help each other out and the next time you pass a stranger on the street, put a smile on your face and acknowledge their presence. What is the worst that will happen, you may not get a response, but at least you did your part as a fellow human being!