why you should smile at strangers

4 year old Norah Woods, with the help of her mother, was the key player in a feel-good story that circled the internet earlier this year. She was at a local supermarket in Augusta, Georgia, when she struck up a conversation with an elderly man shopping alone. 

Her cheerful greeting immediately brightened the man’s disposition and started a precious friendship that has become significant for them both. 

It turns out that Dan had lost his wife only months before and was struggling in his aloneness. He reported that after their brief exchange in the supermarket aisle he was able to sleep well for the first time in a long time. 

Every day we walk by people with stories unknown to us. We don’t know the impact a simple smile or a brief interchange about the weather might have on another’s day. How we might completely alter a person’s mood or break into a negative self-talk cycle and change the trajectory of their day. 

I recently helped a lady to reach a basket from a higher shelf and got the entire story of how the bathroom at her place needed more storage and she doesn’t get to the shops very often and she is hoping it won’t rain this afternoon …and a whole lot of other unrelated pieces of information that told me she probably hadn’t had anyone much to talk to. 

For people who live alone you (at the shops, church, work or even passing by on the street) may be the only person they interact with in a day. Their first chance to speak out loud. Their only smile or laugh. Their only sense of their place in the world or connectedness to others. 

Norah’s boldness to first speak to Dan and then her insistence to follow him up with visits that include colouring in together and taking Dan food have positively impacted both of their families. But even without an ongoing relationship, the smile a simple interaction brought to Dan and the joy it brought to his heart were profoundly impacting. 

What about you? Look out for a person you can smile at or extend yourself to today. An empathetic exchange with a parent juggling kids, pausing to hear someone’s seemingly inane prattle, breaking into another’s frustration with a joke or even allowing someone else to help YOU with a door or your bags …the cost is relatively small (it really is) but the payoff could be huge!

Read more about Norah’s story here

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