Last night, my small family sat around the table after dinner to toast in the New Year. We all gave our goals for 2021. They laughed when I said mine was to see people’s faces again. I couldn’t explain then, so I thought about it, and it came to me why this mattered.
I was walking with my puppy the other day, and we approached an older couple who always stop to make a fuss over the dog. They’re the sweetest pair who I’d say are in their 80’s. I can see it’s hard for the old fellow, who’s slightly plump, to bend over to pet my frisky little toy American Eskimo, yet he doesn’t hesitate.
His wife baby-talks to her, and they are clearly happy to be with a mischievous fluffball who’s so obviously filled with joy at their attention. This breed actually smile, and their little eyes light up. One can feel their love.
I notice myself in a similar way, grinning like a fool and filled with affection for these two. Maintaining a safe distance, they look up at me and wish me a good day, Glee oozes off them as they beam… and I return their smile, letting them see how happy they make me. Their smiles fill me, and my step is lighter.
Unfortunately, it’s not the same in every situation. Walking through the aisles in the store where one would automatically grin at a stranger who spoke for any reason is not the same. The smile is there but it’s covered. Same thing when the clerk gives one a little extra attention, just a joking comment or even have a good day is enough. I look at them, and all I see are their eyes that don’t meet mine for any longer than a few seconds. It used to be the smile that would be shared to let you know how the other person felt. Staring always seemed rather rude and most shied away from connecting like that.
My goodness, I can’t even begin to imagine how many times in a busy day one would use a smile with strangers because it seemed to be the right thing to do… especially if one caught your eye.
I find myself still smiling, but the mask covers the expression, and I know I’m not making the same connection. It’s sad. I miss those sweet glances more than I thought possible.
I can’t wait until we’re safe again, and we can finally let a stranger, or a friend know by the look on our face that they matter.