The morning was perfectly chilly, brisk but not cold. A sudden breeze started biting at my bones. I love sunny, cold mornings that exist in that window between fall and winter. As I strolled under almost-bare trees, I noticed a gentleman raking up the last remainder of leaves into a huge pile. I smiled, and he returned the sentiment, revealing a solid gold tooth. It reflected the sun’s light, so I moved my eyes up to his, worn and wise they were (Perhaps I’ve been watching too much Star Wars). A conversation ensued, and we both reminisced about childhood, recounting stories of fall days when our only concern was making sure a pile of leaves was stacked tall enough for our special jumps. We both longed for those days when we could just jump in with no concern for raking and ridding and responsibility. We concluded our conversation, and I continued to the coffee shop for a steamy Americano and a place to dive into report writing for work.
Although my conversation with this stranger was short, it left an imprint. I started thinking about what life would be like if we smiled at people, if we really saw them. What would happen if we acknowledged the strangers around us? If we asked genuine questions and actually cared about their responses? Too often I avoid eye contact with people because I’m in a hurry. Too many times I’ve avoided conversations with people because I’m either too busy or more often than not, I’m afraid of being too awkward. It’s much easier to keep our heads down, avoiding interruption as we jump from one task to another, keeping to our own, staying in our own little bubble.
However, I want to challenge us, especially during this holiday season when loneliness is even louder, to see our fellow humans. Just “smile and appreciate” as I like to say. Smile at the people around you, accept that we are different and appreciate their souls. We are all in this life together. We all struggle, we all rejoice, we’re all awkward, and we all want to be seen. So let’s honor each other. Let’s see each other. From one human to another, let’s bring joy to each other’s souls. Life is too short to get entrenched in hate and too hard to go at it alone. Whether it’s a stranger on the street, an old friend we haven’t talked to in forever, the person sitting next to us at a coffee shop, a coworker who seems irritated all the time or a homeless person on the street by our favorite restaurant, smile, acknowledge appreciate and love. That’s what it’s really all about, right?