I was reminded as the result of a visit we have just had with an acquaintance from our past, of just how lasting our actions and inactions can be, and of the impact what we do or don’t do might well have on another person we hadn’t even thought might be affected.
If we knew that we were impacting someone for his or her lifetime, would we spend a bit more time being sure of our words or actions? Would we be as quick to react to a perceived slight or would we simply be a bigger person than that? Would our words be better chosen so as to be supportive and positive rather than destructive and negative? Would we be as quick to criticize or would we take a deep breath and consider whether or not to say or do anything before opening our mouths?
I had the great pleasure of being around a bunch of youngsters during our church vacation bible school recently and was rewarded by the beaming smile of a youngster who recognized me as he and his family came to church the next Sunday. I had never seen him or interacted with him up until that vacation bible school and my involvement with him was indirect at best. But, he knew his new older friend and lit up with a big smile as he ran up to me to give me a hug.
We had a visitor from our mutual past this past day or two, and his recollection of lessons he claimed had come from him observing me made another big impact on me. This was the second time someone had made me understand that an earlier involvement had made a difference for them.
It made me wonder how many times I might have caused something other than a favorable memory in a person when I sped past with no time for them, or when I had just had a less-than-good experience and had a frown on my face rather than my usual smile?
We have probably all had the experience of wishing we’d done something other than what we did in a given situation. We wish we could have a ‘do-over’. I know that I have and that it has happened more times than I’d like to admit. This is all part of the ‘human’ condition. We tend to get a bit too full of self, and that is usually when we find these kinds of things happening. We can even see it about to happen but there is nothing we can do to prevent it by then.
I also find that if I am thinking more about those with whom I am interacting at that moment, I usually have a much better result since I am focussed and recognizing another human being who deserves respect and kindness. If they have had a disappointment a moment or two ago, my smile might be enough to help them begin to heal. If they have just received bad news, maybe my smile will help them forget that news for an instant.
We are usually not aware nor do we care about others when we are being jostled through an airport line, or rushing to board a bus. Those are precisely the times, though, when a smile can have magical qualities when you are seen as a nice person who also deserves a smile.
I am reminded that we were taught that we usually reap what we sow. If we sow a frown, that is likely what we’ll reap. If we try to bully our way to the head of the line, we’re likely to get bumped right back to where we started. If we treat others with the respect they deserve, we are more likely to receive that same consideration from others. And, if we don’t always get a positive payback, there will be another in our future somewhere that we didn’t expect to receive.
Ask yourself who might be watching and maybe that will help you find that smile or helpful effort.