Today, while I was waiting for an elevator at O’Hare airport in Chicago, a young woman walked by. She was pushing a baby stroller. Her little boy was about 9 months old, and he was looking around with big, wonder-filled eyes at the crowds of people. Our eyes connected, and he broke out into the biggest smile I had ever seen. It was the kind of smile that makes everyone else around smile because of the sheer joy of it. We spent several moments, smiling and connecting without words, as we waited.
A smile is such a simple thing, and costs nothing. Yet it has the power to change the energy of a space – even one as big as O’Hare airport – within seconds. It can diffuse a tense situation, help someone who is lonely or sad feel supported, or be the start of a lifelong friendship. Sadly, when I look around, I see so few people smiling.
I often play a game when I’m walking through busy places, like airports or a major city. I will try to make eye contact with and smile to the people that I pass. At least 75% of the time I am unable to do this because the other person is distracted in some way – talking on the phone, rushing to wherever it is that they are going, or lost in another world. But for those 25% that I do connect with, the results are instantaneous. They smile back, and maybe nod. They are still smiling when they walk by the next person, who then smiles back at them. It’s like a fast moving ripple through a crowd of people.
Try it. Smile at the next person you pass by. You never know – that smile could change the world!