In metropolitan regions, people walking quickly, with either their head down or their eyes fixed on a mobile device is a prevalent behavior. Nose in a Kindle, ear buds plugged in, and a suspended awareness of the world around us is all too common. As much as I like to think otherwise, I do most of these things, quote often and sometimes simultaneously.
There seems to be a stigma around smiling at strangers. People walking towards one another in a hallway or on a narrow sidewalk rather risk face planting while appearing occupied than just well, looking at a person, acknowledging their presence, and perhaps even smiling at them. The fear of being rejected is probably an underlying cause of this. No one wants to be the smiler who gets ignored, or worse receive that look where it appears the other person has something foul smelling right below their nostrils. You know that look. Think back to junior high school if you have trouble visualizing it. Every so often though, people do smile... sometimes at each other even. But you have to put your iPad aside to notice it.
When I am not scrolling through Instagram or texting while I walk, I notice subtle things around me, sweet things. (For the purpose of keeping this an optimistic dialogue, we will disregard the encounters that leave us utterly pissed off and wanting so deeply to scream some choice four letter words.) Of these rewarding subtleties, not all even pertain to me. Observing people and their behavior is one of my indulgences. Think of it as the more refined older sister to people watching. People watching with meaning.
When the phone is away with eyes and ears open, the wall that technology sometimes erects comes down; people see other people. And they smile. They smile with their mouths, just their eyes or both. Everyone smiles when you are walking a waddling chocolate lab, who has a mind of her own and stops in the middle of the road to take a breather. Everyone smiles when an elderly couple is holding hands, strolling ever so slowly as if there was nowhere in the world they rather be.
When a small child reaches for their mother or father. When a doting parent scoops up their little one, and holds them tightly. Everyone smiles when babies chuckle and toddlers say frighteningly honest things. When you trip up the steps, steady yourself, and then look around frantically to see if anyone else has noticed.
Everyone smiles when holding an ice cream cone or a cupcake. When little boy scouts stand in a line wearing their equally little uniforms outside of a grocery store. When tired grandparents chase after their grand children, but beam no less despite their noticeable fatigue. Everyone smiles when a frazzled father comes out of the bathroom, with a disheveled child toting toilet paper under his shoes. When a couple has that look of love in their eyes.
Smiles can be the sad kind too. When the things we observe evoke memories of a more pleasant time in the past or a yearning for love and understanding. Nonetheless, we keep smiling, because if something at one time made you happy, it is never really gone. That, and we can always hope for a better tomorrow.
Note to self: I quite like the things noticed when I pay attention, so I will have to pay attention more.