It’s OK to Smile

Is it easy for you to be nice & kind? Do you find it natural? Effortless?

A few days ago, I found out that for me, it can be a little challenging too.

Random Act of Chocolate

Friday morning, I’m walking through the business park in Chodov.

It’s the Random Act of Kindness Week 2015 – the time of year when you have an official permission to do something nice and unexpected either for your friends or for complete strangers.

I haven’t performed any significant & unusual act of kindness yet. Smiling at people on the streets and using movie trailer voice in conversations with supermarket sales clerks does not count.

I was playing with the idea of paying for someone else’s coffee in Starbucks this morning, but getting off the subway at Muzeum and going to Starbucks would make me come late to work. Just an excuse, you say? Maybe. But now I really want to do something.

Looking a few meters ahead, an idea is coming. I’ll be passing by a small shop – I could buy a bar of chocolate there and give it to one of the receptionists in our building!

Just the thought makes my heart beat faster. That surprises me – why should it?

I get the chocolate in the shop and hide it in my pocket.

Suddenly, various failure scenarios start running through my head. What if someone notices me? What if the receptionist will be talking to someone else while I enter? What if she doesn’t like chocolate?

I feel a thrill comparable to moments from my early youth when I used to elicit phone numbers from girls on trams and in the metro.

But there’s nothing that challenging about just giving someone a bar of chocolate. Or is there?

The sliding door opens, I smile at the receptionist and say good morning. I try my best to maintain my composure while I walk towards her. Certainly she thinks I forgot my access card and want to ask her for a temporary one. I take the bar of Bolivian almond chocolate from my pocket and place it on the counter.

“This is for you. Have a great day.” I smile, and rush to the elevator.

I’m not looking back, because I don’t want to look like I’m expecting anything in return. When the elevator door closes behind me, I finally relax – mission accomplished!

But wait.

Why So Serious

Don’t you think it’s a little weird? Such a small thing – and so much effort to pull it off.

Why was it such a problem for me?

Unfamiliar situation? Fear of rejection? Crossing the boundaries of normal behavior?

Posing the question in a different way – what would make it easier for me?

A really good reason (the receptionist let me in the day before even when I didn’t have an ID card)? Social proof (Pavel did it, so can I)? Getting a permission (my colleague tells me – look at the receptionist – she looks so tired, why won’t you give her a chocolate)?

Can it be that we could be way more kind and generous than we are – only for some reason, we find it difficult and therefore we fall back into being grumpy (as so many western visitors coming to Prague say about us Czechs)?

What if all we need to be kind is a bit more confidence?

And what if – you could help with as little as giving others a permission to be kind – by being kind to them first?

Let’s start with something as small as smile.

It’s OK

“It’s fine to smile at strangers. It’s OK to be kind to people you don’t know.”

Maybe if we’re persistent enough in smiling at strangers, over time we’ll start getting more and more smiles back.

Featured image by Petr Dosek, taken from Flickr, under Creative Commons licence.

2 thoughts on “It’s OK to Smile

  1. The flipside of Americans accusing Czechs of grumpiness is when Czechs (and Germans and some others) accuse smiling Americans of insincerity. Not so! What an American means to communicate with a casual smile is not the same thing that a dour Central European would be communicating with that expression if he or she were somehow impelled to make it, but it’s certainly genuine as far as it goes. It’s just… different languages. 🙂

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