Have you noticed how many parents instruct their children to smile back or say ‘hello’ when you first meet them?
In my part-time work at a supermarket checkout many families come through every day and I enjoy looking into the eyes of the babies and children because I find that in the way they look at me they are truly seeing me and feeling who I am, exploring who or what is there to be felt. So I look at them and sometimes I can feel that we are truly connected in that moment and nothing more needs to be said or done.
But the parents, wanting their child to ‘be polite’, often instruct the child to smile back or say hello: it feels like they are being asked to perform on behalf of their parents.
In reflecting on my own childhood, and that perhaps I was brought up in the same way, I wondered if I sometimes smile to be polite too?
I know that in my work it is expected of me to smile and be nice, and I can switch that on really easily, but it feels so much lovelier when the smile is a genuine one from deep inside, one that arises because I am enjoying the experience of truly meeting another person – be they adult or child – and my inner playfulness simply and naturally bubbles up, and I naturally smile back in response.
I feel a true smile like this also comes from appreciation. For example, I was recently in a conversation with two beautiful ladies who were expressing their appreciation of me and as I felt what they were saying, my whole body responded with a delicious warm feeling and I began to smile because it felt great. As they watched me, I noticed that they were smiling back in response and our smiles simply grew and grew with the gorgeous feeling of harmony that was developing between the three of us – they appreciated me and I appreciated them in that moment.
And that is what I am learning – to appreciate – both with others and myself.
I was on a course run by Universal Medicine recently where we did a practical exercise on listening to others with appreciation: it showed me how much I listen with judgment, and that judgment of another is impossible if we listen with appreciation… and when we express that appreciation, the true smile cannot help but be there too.
I have found that truly connecting with and deeply appreciating another human being is a heart-warming experience.
By Carmel Reid