There are so many things in life where we feel we are powerless to make a difference.
But one of the wonderful things about being human, with independent thoughts and actions, is that we can choose how we relate to people—whether we choose to remain in our own safe little cocoons, or whether we reach out to connect with someone.
I was musing on this when a friend shared a simple but touching story she had seen on Facebook. The post went like this: “I noticed that my boyfriend would always wave to everyone while we were driving around. No matter who it was, he’d flash a smile, and wave happily, even if they gave him weird looks and didn’t wave back. I asked him why he waved to strangers like that, and he said, “I heard about some people who had tried but failed to commit suicide. Many of them said that if a stranger had just acknowledged them with a smile or a wave, they wouldn’t have tried to end their lives. I want to save a life today.”
While this might seem a little dramatic, there is a message in it that we can take into our daily interactions. When we are having a bad day, just having someone smile pleasantly at us does make a difference. While we may be feeling isolated and miserable, someone has reached out to make a small connection, thereby telling us that we matter.
I recall many years ago that after an unpleasant interaction, the simple greeting from the nice young checkout chick, and the fact that she made eye contact, simply reassured me that the world wasn’t only comprised of nasty people. Here was someone I didn’t know, who made the effort to look me in the eye and chat for a moment. She restored the sense of balance and normality that I needed, and reminded me of the good things about human beings.
And that’s what our Facebook waver and smiler was on about. It costs us nothing to reach out and make a positive connection with a stranger, and it might be the difference between someone deciding whether to stay or leave this world.
The idea of making a small difference to other people’s lives has been around a long time, as we read in the story of Job in the Bible.
“When I smiled at them, they could hardly believe it. The light of my face lifted their spirits” (Job chapter 29, verse 24).
A little light can go a long way….