Going For Smiles Story #14–16
I started Going For Smiles (and Happiness367 before it, in 2016, which you can read about here) so that handwritten smile cards could give everyone a chance to be kind to one another. These stories contribute to the goal of gathering 5,000 shared-smile stories so we can prove that little gestures can have a butterfly-effect impact.
Story #14: “You don’t have to pay double”
Have you ever gotten on the train without a ticket and had to buy a ticket from the conductor?
If yes, then you know that they charge you DOUBLE!! $2 to $4 wouldn’t be a big jump, but the spread I’m referring to spans from $7 to $14. As far as unreasonable and unnecessary things go, this one is in the top five. For reference, I consider $4 bottles of water at movie theaters to be on that list, too.
It was a life changer when the MTA launched a mobile ticketing app. Never would I ever have to allocate an extra 10 minutes to wait in line at a ticket machine. Never would I ever have to evaluate if the time lost by missing the train outweighed the extra $7 I would have to pay to buy a ticket on the train.
Unfortunately, it’s unlikely that someone who doesn’t commute often would know about the MTA mobile ticketing app. That’s why I spoke up when I observed a mother-daughter pair about to pay $28, instead of $14.
“Excuse me, but you could buy your tickets using this app instead…” I said while pointing to MTA E-Tix on my phone.
“Well, they are supposed to buy tickets before getting on the train…” responded the conductor, curtly.
“But it’s double the cost… can they try to download it quickly?”
“They’ll have to set up an account and it’ll take a while…” we all paused for a moment before the conductor continued, “okay you can download it. I’ll be back soon.”
I smiled and thanked him as he passed by, albeit a little annoyed, to check other passenger’s tickets. The daughter, in her mid-20’s or so, asked me for help a few times but didn’t say anything otherwise. By the time the conductor returned, she was ready to show him the purchased tickets. Thanks to the kindness and reasonableness of the conductor who recognized that it made no difference if he took their money or returned five minutes later, these women paid the regular price rather the usual on-train upcharge.
I was surprised, though, when neither the mother nor the daughter said thank you to the conductor or to me. After four stops on the train they just stood up and exited without a word or even an appreciative glance. Personally, I am happy to help people, even without recognition, since it’s part of my default reaction… but the conductor could very well have told them no. Since positive affirmations can encourage people to repeat acts of kindness, I caught his attention when he passed by five minutes later. While extending this card I let him know that it was very kind of him to let the mother-daughter pair download the app. If those two women didn’t extend the courtesy, then at least I could, and it did make him smile.
Story #15: “I’m not asking for money; I would just like to talk”
This story is courtesy of a classmate from college. He lives in San Francisco now, and for context of this story, it’s important to remember that SF is known for its high population of homeless people. Even though it’s impossible to help everyone, this story shows how a little bit of openness and one hour of time did positively impact someone’s life. Here is Maxim’s story.
Walking between meetings, I came across a homeless gentleman and instinctively said; “Sorry, no cash on me right now.” He politely said, “I’m not just asking for money, I’d like to talk.”
He seemed clear-headed and sincere. I was in a rush, so I said:
“Listen, I’m in a hurry, so I do need to go, but if you meet me here at 8am tomorrow, I’ll get you a coffee, and let’s chat.”
I figured that if he was serious, then he would make the 8am meeting. If not, then no loss.
8am the next morning, he’s there. I take him to Starbucks, buy him breakfast and coffee, we chat.
He tells me that he’s just been placed into a group home, he’s picking his life up and has a job opportunity at a movie theater. If he can get a phone for the manager to schedule shifts with him, it’s his. “Let’s go get you a pre-paid phone” I say.
I also let him know that I’ll gladly talk to the manager and let him know I’m rooting for him.
“All I can give you is gratitude, but when I’ve got this job, you and your wife bring two of your friends, and I’ll get you movie tickets.”
“Deal!” I say.
I decided in this moment to err on the side of compassion. Soon you’ll find Sean working at Century Theaters giving it his all and getting back on his feet. I couldn’t be happier to have helped make that happen!
This story reminds me of the saying, “helping one person might not change the whole world, but it could change the world for one person.” Maxim and I chatted over the phone a few days after he shared this story, and as he recounted the experience he said,
“It was rewarding to help Sean, but I unfortunately don’t have time to do this as often as I would like. So, I hope that sharing my story can inspire others to do something similar, and then we can all make a difference together.”
Story #16: “Your card warmed our hearts and souls”
Here’s a story of how only one minute can make a difference.
While hurrying to a Monday morning meeting, I overheard a mother announcing to her family of three girls and her husband, “if anyone would like a Starbucks coffee, just say the word.” “I would like a coffee,” responded one of the daughters immediately. I knew there was a Starbucks Reserve nearby, but it’s a bit hidden unless you know about it. Rather than assuming they’ll find one somewhere, or Google it themselves, I spoke up and let them know where it is. The whole family smiled and said thank you; one of the young ladies complimented my eyeliner, which made me smile, too! Before continuing to hurry off, I handed them this card and everyone’s smiles grew even wider.
In total, the experience took about one minute. Rather than arriving 10 minutes before my morning meeting, I arrived 9 minutes before it… but that minute made a difference for that family, and for me, as we all shared smiles to start the day.
This kind gesture required nothing more than open ears and a willingness to speak up. It was already a rewarding experience, but it only got better as the day went on. After I posted the photo and short story on Instagram, the first comment read:
“I was the girl who complimented your eyeliner earlier today with my family! Later in the day we handed it off to 3 nice girls who took our picture. I love this idea and wish it was in my hometown.”
After two more messages back and forth, she suggested that she could try to recreate the cards with the #GoingForSmiles tag and pass them around in parks in Iowa. They say imitation is the greatest form of flattery, and that is so true!
Just like a gift that keeps giving, one of the other sisters also sent me a message that evening!
“Today you gave my family your inspirational smile card. It was already a rough morning for us and it was only 8:50am. We had a late Sunday night and were trying to get to our tour on time, but teenagers aren’t fans of early mornings. Thank you for telling us about the location of the closest Starbucks. The coffee definitely warmed us up, but your card warmed our hearts and souls.”
(My response definitely included mention of how even adults, such as myself, struggle with early mornings 😊 )
One smile CAN have a butterfly effect impact, and this experience gave that butterfly an opportunity to flutter through all of our hearts and minds. All it took was one minute and openness to experiencing random human connections.
There are countless untold stories of kindness in the world. If you’d like to share yours, email email@example.com. I hope you always find a reason to smile!