Heart smiles, for me, are positive moments in time that nurture the expansion of my heart in terms of spirit. These experiences have a lasting and sometimes profound influence on how I view the world. They restore my faith in humanity, nudge me to believe I can do anything, support me while I take risks, and I visit them regularly with as much clarity as when I first experienced them.
And they don't have to be earth-shattering, just life-affecting somehow, even on the smallest level. I'd like to think we experience heart smiles daily on some level; wouldn't that be awesome? I believe we have that opportunity.
Here are a couple of my heart smiles, one of which I've probably already shared here.
I had just moved to Boston for school and was downtown trying to figure out which platform I needed to go to on the T (Boston's subway system), and how to get there. I tried to ask a few people, but everyone was in a rush and didn't have time. I was going in the opposite direction, and getting down the stairs against the tide, especially for a short person, was daunting.
Suddenly, I felt a hand slide into mine. Startled, I turned to find someone with wraparound black sunglasses next to me, smiling gently. In his other hand, he held a thin, white cane dangling elegantly toward the ground. He leaned in so I could hear him over the din, and said he could show me the right platform. I suddenly felt calm and safe, and complied as the man moved my hand to the crook of his elbow. I was a half step behind, clinging to my guide as his gently sweeping red-tipped cane parted the way. We eased down the crowded stairway, through the sea of tension on one platform, and around a bend to another platform, seemingly hidden from view.
There I was, suddenly at the right place, just as the train was arriving. I turned as my guide replaced his elbow with his hand again, shook mine, and wished me a good evening. I thanked him profusely, and the stranger said, "That's why we're here. To help each other find our way."
Also in Boston, also downtown, I was--you guessed it--waiting for the train again. This station wasn't crowded, and I had a bench to myself. I noticed movement in my periphery and pulled my head up from my studies to see a slim, lively woman all but bouncing over to the bench I was sitting on. I reflexively scooted and gathered my things to make room, even though there was plenty.
She had on Converse, jeans, and a sweater thrown over her shoulders. She swung her book-laden backpack off her shoulder, plunking it down on the ground in front of her just as she plunked herself next to me on the bench. We shared an easy smile, and slid into pleasant conversation.
She was on her way to school, too. Further along than I was, she was due to graduate in the spring, and was planning her Masters program. We talked about classes, teachers, subjects of interest, and remained engaged in conversation while we boarded the train and found seats together. The train ride seemed very short as she prepared for her stop. We both waved good bye as she disembarked.
This sounds like a typical pleasant encounter, doesn't it? The difference with this experience is that this vibrant, eager-to-learn, happy, active student was eighty years old.
I've worked a lot with marginalized and disenfranchised people throughout my life and former career. I've experienced a lot of heart smile moments, but working in a field isn't the same as just being with another person as... well, just fellow human beings.
I got that opportunity when I was working downtown and an eldery gentleman who had been homeless for quite some time would wave hello to me from his perch in an alleyway as I'd go to lunch, and again when I'd walk back. One day, on a really clear, breezy, beautiful day, I decided I didn't want to eat inside, and took my lunch outside. I found myself walking toward this alleyway, and parked around the corner from where this man usually was. We exchanged a wave and this time, as I sat down to eat my lunch, I asked him to join me. After a few polite refusals--he came over and we sat together and shared food and conversation. Not about his situation or my job or anything, just about life.
I found myself wanting to make lunch and bring it, with extra for my new dining partner. This became the still point, the enchanted part of my day, sitting in that alleyway sharing lunches with a homeless man who had a discerning palate, a gift for words, and a full lifetime of experiences.
One day, after a couple of months of sharing lunches, my dining buddy was gone. I discovered, after asking several homeless people in the area, that he had passed away, having been ill for quite some time. I continued to eat my lunches there for a while, leaving a little bit behind each time. I've never told anyone that story.
Knowing all the resources he had available to him, he had made a choice about his own life, and lived it on his terms; I had a deep respect for that.
EVERYDAY HEART SMILES
So, for me, getting out of my own head usually brings me to a place where I'm more aware, open, and receptive to those little daily gems that can change a day, a walk, a direction in attitude in a heartbeat. Or a heart smile.
These can be seemingly small things, like letting someone who's rushed cut in front of you in line at the grocery store, or sharing a funny face with a child, or taking a moment, when someone's inner/outer beauty strikes you, to let them know what you see. These little things come from the heart, and can affect others, too, not just the person with whom you're having the interchange, but anyone else who might be observing.
Heart smiles are spontaneous, and come from the heart. They're positive, uplifting, and they affect your moment, your day, and even your life.
The Internet can provide heart smiles, too, as evidenced by WOTV's campaign this month. I've also just become aware of Upworthy, thanks to my sister, a site seemingly dedicated to heart smiles. I think starting my day with a peek in there might not be a bad thing.
We all have a deep need to contribute in some way to the inextricably intertwined tapestry of life. To feel useful. To matter. To not be invisible. Sharing is one powerful way to do that, right here.
I hope you'll share your heart smiles with WOTV. Imagine how your stories might affect someone else's day, or even life.