Circa 1983: A mid-year fifth grade transition to a new school, in a different country, during preteen angst, was not going smoothly. OK, it felt like the Titanic sinking – icy cold waters and few lifeboats.
You can imagine my mother’s helplessness as I arrived home crying each and every day from Rancho Cañada Elementary in Southern California, MADLY missing my friends from my previous school in Saudi Arabia, sobbing desperately that no one liked me or would even talk to me.
Not being her FIRST rodeo, Mom wisely told her fourth and youngest child, “Michelle, you can’t wait for others to reach out to you. They are just as nervous as you are. You have to take the first step – offer a smile to each person, say a kind word, ask them to play wall ball [my favorite!] or to come over and ride bikes.” [This was gloriously before the digital age and any awareness of lurking predators … where we actually stayed outside until the streetlights came on, with little to no parental supervision – gasp.]
Guess what? She was right. The kids were uneasy and too intimidated to approach some sulky girl relocated from halfway around the world. So I made myself approachable and, though inside still terrified, boldly smiled and awkwardly greeted as many classmates as possible. A few weeks later, catastrophe averted, all was as well as it could be in a ten-year-old child’s world.
Fast forward decades later, Mom’s sage advice is still JUST as applicable … in the business world, at neighborhood block parties, during church activities, with strangers at the airport, or even checking out at the grocery store. Every chance to interact with humans is the opportunity to courageously take the first step and impact others with even the smallest hint of encouragement – a smile, eye contact, a nod, an honest compliment, or simple hello.
Let’s look up from our smartphones and be about the business of connecting with other people, whether we’ve never met them before or have worked beside them for years. Be aware and be engaged with those around us. Relationships and human contact fill our buckets to the point of feeling like, well, Leonardo DiCaprio at the bow of that grand, unsinkable ship excitedly proclaiming, “I’m king of the world!” [But without all that later heartbreak and drowning stuff.]
EVERYONE needs a smile. Try it and let me know how it goes.
A generous soul will prosper, and he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed.