Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Life-Saving Smile

There are many reasons to be kind to strangers. Here's two. Hopefully, they will inspire you to go out and do something nice for someone, just because you can.

Year ago, maybe 15, I was listening to Wayne Dyer speak at a conference. I cannot remember what his main theme was, but I remember this story. It stuck with me like gum on the bottom of my sneaker.

There was a man, we will call him Keith, who'd decided that he'd had it with life. He decided to kill himself, and sat at his desk writing a suicide note. He left his apartment, went to a skyscraper, and proceeded to get in the elevator. His plan was to go to the top and then jump off. As he was riding up, someone called the elevator and it stopped. This other man got in, looked at our suicidal subject and smiled. "Hey, how's it going?" the man asked. Keith nodded, not saying much. The elevator climbed a few more stories, and then the elevator stopped. It was time for the man to exit. As he was getting out, he turned back to Keith and said, "You have a great day now." The elevator doors closed.

Keith's heart warmed. He wasn't sure what had happened but something had. At that moment, Keith realized that he didn't want to die after all. Once again, he had hope. The general offering, Have a Great Day, from this man was enough to change Keith's perspective. He decided not to jump after all, and later shared his story with Wayne Dyer. Eventually, he became a motivational speaker. The random man on the elevator saved his life. 

Tonight, while I was having my groceries checked out at the market, the cashier asked, "How's it going?" I replied, "Pretty good," to which he responded, "That's good to hear." I was surprised. It's rare that people actually care, or pay that much attention. I mentioned this to the boy - he must have been 17 - and then proceeded to tell him the story that I just shared above. He agreed that kindness counts, and told me another story that shows the power of a smile.

There was a man in San Francisco who decided he was going to kill himself. He wrote a note and left it behind in his apartment. The note said something to the effect of 'I am going to kill myself by jumping off of the Golden Gate bridge. I will choose not to jump if just one person smiles at me along the way.'

Not one person smiled, and the man jumped to his death.

Project PDA, the same one that I wrote about in my blog post "Share the Love. PDA Today" seeks to brighten the day of any random person who might find a note, a tag, a photograph. It seems so unimportant until you are the person in need of that smile, or note, or free cup of coffee, and then, it almost seems like divine intervention.

I just made some postcards, 100 of them were free on Vistaprint. (I did have to pay the cost of shipping, about $6.) On the front, I put "You Are Awesome (Yes, you!)" and on the back, I wrote the Etta Turner quote that says, "In a world where you can be anything, be yourself." I plan on mailing these to people, leaving them on tables with tips, inserting them into fashion magazines. 

Front view of the postcards I made, as part of my guerrilla marketing for Project PDA.

The people closest to me know how special they are. I tell them all the time. Some people, though, don't have people in their lives reminding them of how awesome they are. Wouldn't it be nice for them to hear it from you? 

We are all living in this world together, and while we cannot be expected to change everyone's lives, doing something as simple as smiling at someone, or saying hello, might save theirs. I hold doors open for people, let someone that seems to be in a hurry go ahead of me on line at the store. I smile knowingly at harried mothers who seem to be at their wits end. I do my best to be kind. 

Last week, on the way to my doctor's appointment, I saw a woman who'd just had a car accident. Her airbag had gone off and she was struggling to get herself and her baby out of their minivan. I pulled over, told her I was calling 911, and waiting for the police to arrive. During that time, I told her that she could sit with her baby in my car. It was probably 30* out, if that, so they were freezing, scared and crying. We sat in the car together until the police came and wrote the police report. It was about 45 minutes. She was worried about getting home to her four year old daughter (she is the mother of three) who was going to be getting off the bus at noon. I know that feeling, so I offered to drive her home. I got her baby seat out of the minivan before they towed it, and then drove her, and her baby, home in time to meet the bus.

It wasn't a big deal for me. I missed my doctor's appointment, but in the process helped a very scared mother and her baby. She was so thankful, and through her tears kept thanking me over and over again. I just kept saying, "It's okay. It's no big deal. Anyone would do it." 

Anyone would, right? Wouldn't you?


  1. Gotta say ... I would!!!! Just did something like this two days ago. I don't look for a pat on the back and I am sure you don't either. It makes you feel good doesn't it? It's something you naturally do and don't think twice about doing it. As simple as someone drops something you reach down and pick it up for them. We were put on this earth for several reasons and this is one of them ... to help others even in the smallest ways. I don't look for that pat on the back I just want to give credit to my wonderful parents for teaching this to me. Hope I am passing this down to my kids :) GREAT BLOG!

  2. Thank you, Anonymous!

    I have to share that I came home today to a huge box of chocolate covered strawberries, along with a "Thanks" balloon, and the most heartfelt note, from the woman who'd had the accident. Just goes to show that even with all she'd been through, she still thinks about others. Too sweet, and though it was unnecessary, it made my day.

    Goes to show that there is a lot of good hearted people in this world.