Friday, December 24, 2010

People Together

I've been out and about some yesterday and today, running some errands and getting a few more things done before Christmas.  Not surprisingly, there are a lot of people around, much traffic, clogged store aisles, and a clear sense of some holiday-related stress.  As I walked from place to place, I saw some serious-looking expressions that appeared rather irritable or unfriendly.  It reminded me of why I don't much care for running errands and getting a few final things done in the day or two before Christmas.

Then I unintentionally smiled at someone.  It was more habit than anything, acknowledging her presence as we neared each other's space.  She appeared startled, and I had the impression that she flinched.  Just a moment later, though, she recovered and appeared pleased.  She smiled back with a beautiful and friendly smile which seemed to take more permanent residence on her face.  It was like the expression had returned to its rightful home.

I was startled by the interaction, too, and particularly by the strength of her response.  As I continued on my day's path, I looked around more and wondered about the other people I saw.  What are they making final preparations for on this day?  What will they be doing tomorrow, and what significance does this holiday hold for them?  How much stress were they feeling?  How much joy?

I kept thinking of the lady with the sudden smile, and I smiled again at the memory.  I was surprised once more when someone else nearby responded, another day-brightening expression.  Interesting!  Two in a row is clearly a trend, and by this time I could not resist actually testing it out -- make eye contact, smile, observe, walk, repeat. And you know what?  I discovered a bunch of friendly people.  These were not just obligatory social smiles; the vast majority appeared quite genuine.

Unexpectedly, these two days of pre-Christmas errands have been a gift -- an opportunity to connect, even in just a very small way, with people around me, to step beyond just being in close proximity with other people and to be relational human beings together.

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