So, after my “Thank you for Smiling” post, I decided to start looking at people more…and talking to people more. It’s not like I don’t ever do that, but now I’m making a more conscious decision. When I step into the elevator at the office, for instance, I say hello and smile. I know…it’s not a feat of epic proportions to be nice to strangers but it’s a re-training to really decide to mean it.
Within five hours of making this mental commitment, I had another short but enlightening elevator conversation which made me think, wouldn’t it be interesting to have an Elevator Conversations blog series made up of lessons I get or funny anecdotes from people I meet on the elevator? (Or behind a register or… I’m gonna play fast and loose with the location.)
So here’s a second installment (of who knows how many…maybe 2) in a human experiment of being more intentional about saying hello to people I would normally assume don’t want to talk to me.
The evening of the day that I smiled at a guy, I ended up in the elevator with a woman who works on my floor. She’s older, probably in her 60s, tiny, and has what I think is an Eastern European accent…though in all of our mini bathroom exchanges I’ve never asked her where she’s from. (mental note)
Riding high on my “Thank you for Smiling” morning, I asked her if she had had a good day, expecting her to say yes but probably leave it at that. Instead, she got a big grin on her face and said,”I thank God every day that I wake up in the morning. People all over the world did not wake up today. I’m so thankful that we don’t have to worry about terrorists bombing our houses…” and we talked about the state of the world for 12 floors.
The morning she said this was the morning I read in the news that Palin had endorsed Trump, that the Zila virus was causing birth defects in our world and in our country, that there’s still a lot diversity work to do in Hollywood, that a search for missing Marines off the coast of Honolulu had been called off, that the Taliban had killed 20 people while they were trying to learn and teach at a Pakistani university and that ISIS had leveled a 1400 year old monastery in Iraq. And the likelihood is that that was just the tip of the iceberg for the bad news of the day.
But the good news was that there were also friends having coffee making the planet a better place by loving each other, children running around playgrounds squealing with delight, non-profits fighting for the rights of people who need someone with more power or status to have their backs, university students on all continents ruminating on their big dreams and how to make the world a little brighter, and nuns and monks and other humans praying in their homes, their mosques, their churches for peace in the world and other good things. And also, there were strangers having uplifting interactions in elevators.
It was not exactly a beautiful day for a lot of people…but it was, indeed, a beautiful day.
I think that thankfulness/gratefulness is a wisdom that comes with age. It’s easier for me to be thankful for things than it used to be, but I’ve been in a years long training process to be more grateful for the blessings I do have rather than dwelling on the things that I don’t. It’s still difficult though. The easier path for me is to rail against my disappointments rather than to be grateful for my gifts. But every decision I make towards gratefulness works to recalibrate the scales to tip in the opposite direction.
My elevator reminder was that even if the day is dark, it’s good to be thankful that you have a day…and maybe another one tomorrow.