Smile at People, You Don't Know What They're Going Through
When I got the call that my father passed away, I was in a strange city on a work trip. I was with my clients when I burst into a blob of pure despair and a black hole opened up and swallowed me whole.
The worst part of it all – besides for losing my best friend – was not knowing what I needed. Nobody prepares you for the shock of losing someone you love. There’s no guide book for “how to lose a parent.” I mean, how could someone possibly prime you for the heart break and confusion of death? I’m not saying I’m an expert on grief, nor have I come close to managing it myself, but by sharing my story, I hope to shed some light on how to make the impossible almost bearable, and how to take these kinds of experiences and transform them as best you can.
I booked a last-minute flight home to Colorado and began my journey to face reality. Not surprisingly, my flight was fully booked and the best economy seat I could get was a middle seat near the rear of the plane. Before the flight, I walked up to the gate agents and inflight crew and, with a stream of tears falling down my face, begged them to switch my seat only to hear, “sorry miss, the flight is full, there’s nothing we can do.”
Sure, I didn’t have a sign above my head explaining my current physical and emotional state, but couldn’t people tell I was gravely suffering? Defeated, I stumbled to the back of the plane, sat in my seat and burrowed my face into my lap. That’s when I felt a tap on my shoulder – it was the flight attendant and she told me a lady in first class wanted to give me her seat. I walked to the front of the plane and embraced this stranger for what seemed like forever. I was incredibly taken back by her kindness and that such an ostensibly minor act could lift me up so much.
And that’s when I came to a greater realization: everyone is grieving. Of course, not everyone just unexpectedly lost a parent, but everyone is bummed out about one thing or another. Some seemingly trivial compared to others, but meaningful nonetheless. Whether it’s physically obvious or not, we’re all dealing with our own internal and external battles and emotions. The world is crumbling down on all of us. So, I took this act of kindness and allowed it to transform the way I approached people in the hopes of making a small difference. Here are some things I’ve taken with me, and hope you do too:
Small acts of kindness can have the most profound impacts
Life can suck, so find the things you love to do and don’t stop doing them
Hug your family and friends and tell them you love them
Check in on the people you know are going through something (a simple, “thinking of you” can brighten someone’s day)
Smile at people, you don’t know what they’re going through