STORIES ABOUT THE PEOPLE I MET AND THE QUOTES THAT CONNECTED US
GoingForSmiles Story #1
These days it can be easy to lose sight of all the goodness in the world. Especially in the bigger cities, the common perception is that we are oblivious to anything and anyone in our path (except the street signs… but even that can be debatable). Try to ask a stranger anything other than, “can you help me with these directions?” and people might scurry away as if you’re contagious! I may be exaggerating a bit, but that perception is generally true. Our population is very skeptical and guarded, especially in urban areas where almost everyone we pass on the street is a stranger. But, as Confucius said,
By nature, man is nearly alike; by practice he becomes wide apart — Confucius
By now you might be thinking I’m an idealist and couldn’t possibly know what it’s like to live in a big city. Well… I’m a New Yorker, born and raised, AND I work in finance. Yes, I do like my personal space, but I’m also self-reflective and empathetic. I started Going For Smiles (and Happiness367 before it, in 2016, which you can read about here) so that these handwritten smile cards could give everyone a chance to be kind to one another. To help me prove that little gestures can have a butterfly-effect impact, I hope to gather 5,000 shared-smile stories. Some of the stories will come from my own personal experiences of talking with strangers (my mother is thrilled) and directly handing them a smiles card. Other stories will come from people along the chain-of-smiles who either found or received a card, and then passed it along to keep the chain going. Either way, these stories represent the people who share this world with us. These stories just might represent you.
STORY #1: The TALK TO ME Bracelet
It was 7:15am on December 22nd at the Newark airport, and dozens of people were already sitting alongside me. If you do the math, you’ll realize that most of us had to wake up by 5:30am, at the latest, to be sitting there by 7:15am. What better place to share smiles than a room of sleep-deprived travelers?!
Sadly, my first attempt was a flop. I’ll spare you the details, but the story ends with the young woman sitting to my right turning me down. She was aimlessly scrolling through Instagram when I snapped her out of social-media daze to offer a smile card. She straight up said, “I don’t want it,” and went back to her phone. Fortunately, the smiles project has taught me resilience; I can’t expect everyone to like me or care for a smile. But I did whisper, “ooooookayy” and leaned back into my seat.
A few minutes later, a woman with salt and pepper hair sat to my left. I waited another five or ten minutes before trying to say hello to another stranger. Fortunately, she was immediately receptive!
“Excuse me… I found this card in Manhattan yesterday, and since it says to pass it along, I thought I would find someone here to share it with. Would you like it?”
“Wow, that’s so nice!! Thank you!” she exclaimed and took the card from my hand. After a short pause she continued, “well, I actually have something for you too!”
She rummaged in her backpack and returned with a holiday-themed mini plastic bag full of Hersey kisses! To say I felt touched would be a major understatement!
“That’s so sweet!! Pun-intended, too! … Look at that, our happiness has literally multiplied!”
I held up the candy in one hand and the smiles card in the other. The quote on the card read:
“HAPPINESS is one of the few things that MULTIPLIES WHEN YOU SHARE IT.”
“What motivated you to put together candy bags?” I continued.
“Well, I’m just giving them out to anyone who would like one. People are skeptical of food, but other people are receptive. Either way, it’s my way of giving back to the world some of the kindness and cheer that I have been receiving lately.”
I originally told Jane (real names have been changed) that I found the card, but after we started talking as if we were old friends just catching up, I clarified that I actually did make the card. As they say, honesty is the best policy and the genuine conversation which followed made me happy that I’m not maintaining strict anonymity.
As her story goes, Jane is a kindergarten teacher and she was flying to Seattle to spend Christmas with her son and his family. The kindness she had been receiving lately was in the form of support from friends and family since her husband passed away unexpectedly. She described their marriage was one for the storybooks! He was very kindhearted and outgoing; the type of person who would say hello to strangers and find ways to make anyone laugh. “If he were sitting here, talking with you, he would love to know all about these smile cards! He would even ask for more so that he could pass them along!” Giving out candy bags was Jane’s way of giving goodness back into the world that has been caring for her lately, and the world that her husband made better by simply being himself.
At some point during our hour-long conversation, I noticed that Jane’s rubber bracelet said, “TALK TO ME, DAN.” When I asked her about it, she said that her husband, Dan, gave it to her a few years ago. The bracelet was customizable, so she could write her own messages based on what she is feeling. Currently, she was looking for signs from her late husband. She wanted him to talk to her, in any way. I do believe in signs and, even if you don’t, we can all agree that randomly saying hello to Jane was a rewarding experience for both her and me. For an hour, we were no longer strangers; we spoke as friends and had a kindhearted, funny, reflective conversation. If our plane wasn’t boarding, we probably could have spoken for hours more! But life goes on.
“I hope it’s okay that I’ll hang on to this card for a while… but I will pass it along when I’m ready,” she said before starting to gather her bags.
We hugged (for a good five seconds or more), wished each other a good flight and Merry Christmas, and parted with a shared smile.
I hope you enjoyed Jane’s story! You can expect many more, so please follow along to see what story we’ll share next!
Thank you to all the untold stories of kindness in the world. I hope our paths with cross one day! If you would like to share your story, please email firstname.lastname@example.org . I hope you always find a reason to smile!