I still reflect back on this experience when I’m strolling through a store and catch a friendly smile from a stranger. Small moments can have such big impacts.
Today, give a stranger one of your smiles.
It might be the only sunshine he sees all day.
-H. Jackson Brown Jr.
On my connecting flight today in Chicago/O’Hare airport, I sat at gate F11, patiently awaiting my boarding call. As I sat there ‘people watching,’ I saw this elderly man approaching me with a big smile on his face and a partially eaten grilled cheese sandwich in his hand. I politely smiled back as he asked, “Do you mind if I fight with you for awhile?” I started to laugh and replied, “Well, sure — why not?” As he took a seat next to me, he proceeded to ask, “What should we fight about?” I continued to laugh as I told him, “Whatever is on your mind.”
Bill, an 84 year old retired architect, happened to have a four hour lay over in Chicago and was simply looking for some company. Little did Bill know that he would become a bright spot in my day. What a pleasant conversation we had about where we were from, our families, occupations, health, travel, hearing aids and the list goes on. I must say that we laughed a lot during our time together, with a number of glares and stares being thrown our direction.
Actually, the hearing aid conversation was hysterical. He told me to plug my ears and count to five out loud. Of course I hesitated, but how could I say no to this dear old man. So, there I sat in the gate area plugging my ears and counting out loud. After I concluded, he said, “Did you hear the echo?” I smiled and said, “Yeah.” Bill then proceeded to explain, “That’s what it’s like wearing these things — and sometimes the problem is people just talk too fast. $1500 for these.” I remember just sitting there and staring at this precious man and thinking “Bless your heart.” Actually, I’m almost certain that I even said it a couple of times. He was such pleasant company.
Knowing that I would be boarding shortly, Bill said, “Ya know — I look for the smiles. I like people who have graduated from the School of Smiles. You smiled back at me…. You see, that’s when I ask a question and the response tells a lot about the person. If someone doesn’t want to talk to me, that’s okay.” I told him that I couldn’t agree more.
I’m glad Bill picked me out of that crowded gate area to chat with. I felt as though I was sitting with my grandfather catching up on life. Both of my grandfathers passed away when I was very young, so I never really knew them — which allowed me to have a greater appreciation for this moment with Bill.
I can’t help but reflect upon one of my favorite quotes by Cesare Pavese: We do not remember days, we remember moments. I may not remember Tuesday, August 2nd, 2005 but I will always remember the pleasant conversation I had with Bill at gate F11. Make every moment count!