4.2.20 A Stranger’s Smile


I fell asleep with my son, putting him to bed last night. I woke up this morning by falling out of his bed. I realized, in that cold, hard moment on the floor, that my predicament was quite the metaphor for how I’ve been feeling lately. Every day I wake up with a bit of a shock, a little rocked and shaken, a little dazed – needing a moment to reorient myself before standing up again.

Anyone else?

I asked a student of mine recently how he was doing and he said, “You know, I think this is going to be one of those things that changes you for the rest of your life. My great grandparents went through the Great Depression, and for the rest of their lives they were really careful with money and lived a simple life. I feel like this is going to be our big life event that changes us, and someday I’ll scream at my kids to ‘wash their hands better,’ because they just can’t understand what I’ve been through.”

Wisdom. I think he’s right. I think that this event is unlike anything the world has known in my time of living on it. In some ways I appreciate the pause, the time with my family, the dinners and walks. But in other ways Spring Break felt more like a Spring Breakdown … becoming acclimated to working remote from jobs that were not designed that way, and realizing that even outdoor escapes like parks and preserves are closed.

One of my closest friends said, “I hate that it’s called ‘social distancing.’ It should be called physical distancing. We shouldn’t be trying to make ourselves less social.”  It’s weird for everyone. It’s hard for everyone. So be gentle. Be kind. And don’t forget to be humane in your humanness. I feel like when I have ventured out for my weekly groceries, people cast their eyes down and look away from one another … like everyone is a potential threat. Stay six feet apart, but SMILE!

There was an elderly gentleman at the grocery waiting in line like me, and we got to chatting. I told him my frustration with people’s social ineptitude, and he said, “You know, someone took a picture of me the other day and said they couldn’t recognize me because I was scowling. I didn’t even know I was.”

“Well you’re smiling now,” I said. “And I’m honored you spent your smile on me.”

So, like me, you might be feeling a little rough-around-the-edges and sore. Life has taken us for a tumble … but don’t forget to be yourself, don’t forget to care about the smiles of a stranger that might be your job to bring about.

All my love and prayers,


14 thoughts on “4.2.20 A Stranger’s Smile

  1. That was so well said Elle! I particularly liked physical distancing vs social. Much better way to view it.
    We live full time in our RV. Most people have gone home from our Park. We extended our stay for another month rather than travel. Our Resort here in Arizona, has locked down everything. I am lover of people. We can still ride our bikes and go for walks, however. My simple joy each day is the ride around to find our elderly residents . I stop to chat, try to make them laugh and share stories. When I ask if they are afraid, they all just smile and say no.
    So I will physical distance only and still find any opportunity to love on people. Thanks for the encouragement.

  2. Needed to read this today. As a teacher trying to do remote learning, take care of my family, etc. It is a hard change. Agree with your student, I believe we will be changed forever. You be kind to yourself as well and be healthy. You are blessing.

  3. Yes!! I love reading what you write! Your words are so real, honest and truthful. I adore you! Be well and safe. Sending you a smile 🙂

  4. Oh Elle…this struck a chord in my heart that aches for “the time before”. I too notice the walking in a grocery store without eye contact and little smiling. I too wake up in the morning with a bit of a shock, for a moment wondering if I have been dreaming. Your post really touched me and I thought “Yes…we are all so much alike in the ways we experience being human”. I was reminded that sharing my experience, even with a stranger, connects me with another soul. For that moment in time, I feel that we are not so alone in this difficult time. When shared with another, anxiety lessens and my heart feels lighter. Thank you for sharing your experience.

  5. Elle, these are beautiful and truthful observations. I too wake up every morning and have to reorient myself to another day in isolation. I agree that this will be a life changing event for everyone. I hope we all emerge from it kinder, and wanting to live a simpler life. In my neck of the woods I am experiencing that people are friendlier. When I am out in the front yard, people driving by smile and wave at me. They never did before. In the grocery store people seem to want eye contact and smiles, as if to be reassured that we truly are all in this together. Thank you for sharing.

  6. Thank you for this reminder, Elle. I must say, I’m one of those people at the supermarket who avoids eye contact these days. It’s hard to be in the mood to smile when one is donning a face mask and gloves, doing our best to touch as few objects as possible while on our quest to buy groceries for the week. Yet, we also have so much to be grateful for. The opportunity to spend every day with my husband, children, and pets, is beautiful, and although I am not pleased about the greater circumstances, I return to the basics, reminding myself to stay strong and to never stop seeking the silver linings. They’re always there and we have to be kind to ourselves and others.

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