… for the smile is the beginning of love." ~ Mother Theresa
A lot of blog posts have been rolling around in my mind over the course of my silence (not intentional, just circumstantial… my silence that is) but this one was first and foremost. I've debated many times over whether I wanted to share this experience in my blog, but I felt compelled to and hope you understand why at the end of this.
Several weeks ago, Father's Day weekend in fact, I was at Barnes and Noble purchasing gifts for my dad and grandfather. After a glorious amount of time browsing, perusing, notating my wish list, and picking up and putting down books for dad and grandpa, I finally made my final purchase decision and made my way to the rather long line at the cash register. I ended up standing behind an older woman who was accompanied by her two daughters.
The one daughter, most likely in her mid-forties, carried on a conversation with the mother while the second daughter waited patiently in line (not that anyone in line wasn't being patient, which is one of the beautiful things about bookstores. Patience seems to abound, even at the holidays). But as I mindlessly browsed the calendars on display, I saw the younger woman hugging her purchase to her chest. She had a quiet, yet at the same time brilliant smile on her face. Wondering what she may be purchasing, I took a closer look and realized it was a flower kit of sorts. I'm not sure if it was for pressed flowers, drawing flowers, crafting with flowers or what, nor does it make any difference. She was happy with her purchase.
So happy in fact that she turned around, wrapped a free arm around her mother, and hugged her in line, quietly saying, "I love you, Mama." Then she smiled brightly, cupped her sister's cheek in her hand and said, "I love you, sister" and went back to hugging her purchase as her family smiled indulgently back at her.
I looked quickly away lest they see the tears in my eyes. Not from noting that the girl had a mental handicap of some sort, but because the pure, unadorned outpouring of love moved me to tears.
The simplest act can make or break someone's day, which I unfortunately witnessed that same day not more than two hours later.
After bearing witness to the beautiful display of love, I made my way to a large "everything under one roof" grocery store. I had been dreading the trip because I knew the crowds would be out en masse, but it was the only day that week I could get there.
As I wandered through the produce department, I saw an older woman standing at the deli counter, chatting politely with another customer. For some reason, I got the impression that she was a rather lonely woman and that perhaps she purposely went out on Saturdays just to be around people. She seemed to be enjoying her chat with the fellow customer, and I went along my way, not thinking much about the interaction afterwards I'm sorry to say.
After a time, I had collected everything I thought I needed and was reviewing my grocery list (yes, Kony, it's still typed) when I realized I had forgotten blueberries. So back to the produce section I went. I had just made my selection and was heading towards the registers when I saw the same older woman by the peaches. About three feet from her was an adorable little girl, sitting in a grocery cart, eating some grapes. The older woman smiled brightly at the little girl and said, "My, my. Aren't you adorable? Are those grapes good? I was thinking of buying some!"
Before the little one had a chance to answer, her mother came up and while I couldn't hear what she said to the older woman, the crestfallen look on her face after the brief exchange said it all. As her mother raced away, pushing the girl in the cart, I saw the little girl try to raise her hand to wave good-bye at the older woman but her mother quickly, and quite literally, squashed any attempt to do so.
I wanted to race after the woman and "give her a talking to" but I didn't. One, I was cowardly. It really wasn't any of my business. But two, I was so infuriated at her quick dismissal of the older woman that I knew I had best keep my mouth shut so as not to say something the woman probably didn't deserve.
I watched the older woman for a few moments afterwards. Her shoulders were slumped and she wasn't making eye contact with anyone. My baser instincts were to walk over and give her a hug but that would be just too weird all around. Had I been in a restaurant, I would have sent over a slice of pie or paid her check or something. But all I could do was just watch and eventually walk away.
I hope, for society's sake, that the mother of the little girl was just having a rough day and maybe later, when things had calmed down, she could reflect on her behavior and realize how rude she had been. For the older woman, I hope after a minute or two she could move beyond the dismissal and go back to greeting fellow shoppers with a smile and maybe a kind word or two.
And for you, I hope that my little post today stays with you, and that you greet everyone you see today from this point on with a smile.