I go to my collegiate alma mater’s library everyday. I check my mail, check facebook, twitter, blog, and whatever. One thing I notice is the difference in the way many library staff interact with people. Honestly, most of the folks there always wear a mask of disinterest. Very little interaction. The front desk is manned (ok, I don’t know how to de-sex that term…. manned/womanned?) by college students in town during the summer. When I walk in the door, I usually scan the front desk to greet Front Desk Attendent. Most of the time, the person sitting there greets you with their mask on, if they lift their head at all. Their gaze seems at the most apathetic. The paranoid me, that always does battle with the confident me, starts writing stories about what they think about me… Pretty self-absorbed, huh? Anyway, I’m always curious about how they will respond when someone walks in the door.
Except….there is one young lady that ALWAYS smiles when I come in. She is genuinely friendly. She isn’t always there when I come in, but when she is, I know she will smile and be friendly. I REALLY appreciate her attitude towards people as they enter. You feel welcome, as if someone has come up to you, stuck out their hand with a smile, patted you on the back and given you an old-fashioned Southern greeting.
I LOVED the courageous kindness behind that smile. Honestly, it always takes courage to be kind… not polite… but kind. Politeness is a response, kindness is an action. Kindness reaches past the mask and expresses unencumbered good will to another person. Kindness creates personal contact, rather than responding to the action of another. Unfortunately, many people respond to kindness, with skepticism…”What do you want?”…. The motives of a kind person seem to be questioned. We all seem so intent on self-protection that we tailor our response to a kind act…. We wait for the other shoe to drop…. and then…. “Mhmmmmm, I thought so…” So maybe that is a conditioned response to the culture in which we live. Pretty sad.
But that is why I think acts of kindness should be noticed and acknowledged. So one day when I entered the library, the girl smiled and greeted me. After returning her smile and greeting, I approached the desk and said, “You know that you have a great smile? I really appreciate that you smile every time I come in the door. That makes my day!”
She responded, “Well thank you, and I love that you smile back. So many people just walk in with a straight face, and don’t respond.”
Wow… I thought I was the only one who noticed that in the staff… She saw the same thing in people on the other side of the desk.
I went over to the desk and we started getting to know each other… why we were here…. where we came from…. what we wanted to do in the future…
We connected. I loved it! And you KNOW whenever I come into the library, I look forward to the girl who smiles.
People who smile are like a splash of color in a world of gray. That’s why I love kids so much. They smile. Their eyes have a twinkle that just waits for someone to lock on, and notice them. Once the eyes lock, the spring on their mouth automatically pulls the corners up, cheeks bulging.
So, smile to someone today…. They may smile back!