They can be easy to miss, though.
Let me illustrate with this story:
The other day I was walking along in a small shopping center, headed for Starbucks. My mood was blue and I was feeling discouraged. I struggle with depression occasionally and I was concerned that it might be raising its dark head.
I glanced up as I walked and saw a teenage girl about to pass me. My blue-themed thinking went something like, “Teenagers. So involved in themselves and their phones…she’ll probably just look away or give me that look like I don’t exist.”
The kid gave me a wonderful smile and a confident look that conveyed to me how wonderful the world was for her and, in that second, I was a part of her world.
I smiled back with genuine delight, happy that my inner depression-gremlin had been proven wrong.
Starbucks was busy as usual and, after placing my order, I waited for my drink at the end of the bar. I began to get lost in dreary internal thoughts again.
Wanting something to distract myself, I started looking around at the other people in the store. Some were engaged in conversation, others were reading. I turned to see what was happening behind me and caught the eye of a woman sitting at a table by herself.
She smiled at me, her face crinkling into familiar, well-worn lines of happiness. She looked me directly in the eyes as if we were the only two people in the store and I was her long-time friend.
I returned her smile, feeling a warmth arise in me as though it had been beamed via the woman’s friendly gaze and brilliant smile.
My inner dreariness was replaced by contentment.
Returning to my car, I sat and thought about these two brief, impactful interactions and how they had changed my mood from melancholy to contentment.
Here’s what I discovered about both me and the women who had lit up my day with their smiles:
1. Intentional actions.
Both of these women made a choice to direct their attention to and smile at a stranger. As discussed in previous posts, intentional acts of kindness not only benefit the recipient of the act, but also the provider of the act.
It was obvious that these two people, one older and one younger, were well-practiced in acts of kindness as their inner happiness was apparent.
Do you remember to practice acts of kindness? Even small ones, like smiling at a stranger, can help both you and the other person increase happiness.
2. Giving authentic attention.
I often walk by people on the street and exchange smiles. But they are usually the quick, insincere half-smiles with a glance that most of us give fairly unthinkingly.
Both the teenager and the woman at Starbucks looked me straight in the eyes and smiled with authentic joy. Each of them made me feel as though I had been truly seen as a person rather than just a stranger walking by.
How often do you give someone your sincere attention, even for a brief second? It is another way of being intentional with others – to truly recognize that person’s important place in the world.
I could have looked away from each of these women, but instead, I chose to engage with them, however briefly. I connected with them by looking in their eyes and returning a genuine smile. This connection resulted in the warmth I felt from the woman in Starbucks.
How about you? Do you allow yourself to connect with others? Connection is one of the key components in your ability to develop resiliency – to bounce back from everything in life from a bad mood to major adversity.
4. Being open.
Through a lot of experience with the rough knocks of life, I have learned that I need to be open to tiny miracles happening in my day. If I had closed myself off to the interactions with these two people, I would have missed out on an opportunity to be healed of my inner melancholy.
Do you look for the tiny miracles in your day?
5. Savoring the moment.
It’s hard to live in the moment. We are used to life flying by and getting ourselves ready for the next thing rather than what is right in front of us now.
I felt lucky that I was able to recognize the kindness these women brought to me and to truly savor it and allow it to change my internal mood.
Is your mind in this moment or preparing for the next thing? It’s a difficult practice to stay in the moment, but just noticing the moment several times each day will help you slow down so you can savor the tiny miracles and connections that are all around you.