Today I did an informal experiment. As I was riding my bike to work, I decided to count how many people either returned my smile or said good morning/hello or some other acknowledgement (even a head nod!). No, it wasn’t too early and it was a gorgeous day! – I live in an amazingly beautiful area with a bike path that connects two towns on either side of the Columbia River. Along the way, it is quite normal to see eagle, osprey, fish jumping, salmon fisherman fishing, and even some other unsightly creatures (snakes, skunk).
In other words, the reasons to be happy, to be smiling, to be friendly were numerous! We are alive, we are able bodied enough to be outside enjoying the beauty and breathing clean, fresh air!
Back to my experiment: my trip to work is only about 45 minutes of brisk biking but I passed no less than 47 people. I am not counting the ones who were plugged in or chatting away with others and, therefore, would not hear my cheery voice. 47 people (plus the others with headphones or friends)! Isn’t that amazing? So many people up and exercising and enjoying the outdoors. Guess how many people smiled back at me? Or acknowledged me in any way? 13. Yes, only 13 – roughly 26% I was overly cheery and loud with my greetings and still – only 13. That makes me wonder: what is going on in their minds that they are choosing to not be present? (Perhaps they thought I was a bit loony or “one of those annoyingly happy morning people?)
Which leads me to this article – how often do we go throughout our day not being present? What are we missing by letting our minds run ahead? How many people do we not connect with by not paying attention to our surroundings and missing the best parts of our day? It’s so easy to get absorbed in what we have to get done, our stresses, or our life but by not being present, we might miss that open door to the next greatest opportunity. Even the missed opportunity to really “see” and acknowledge some really great people!
Do you know WHO those 13 people were? They were the ‘seniors’ (older than me!) who I suspect were out there because: 1) they had the time 2) they enjoyed the beauty of the outdoors or even 3) perhaps they wanted to make someone’s day better by offering a hello or a smile. I can see their smiles, the look of peace and contentment. For me, they reminded me just how much a smile means. They made my day brighter.
Even if you don’t have the opportunity to ride a bike to work or don’t live in a place that is beautiful, there is still joy in being alive and being in the moment. Take a look around – I’m sure you can find at least one thing to smile about?
A smile is easy. A smile is cheap. A smile can make someone’s day. The best gift you can give yourself is to make someone’s day brighter by offering a free smile. Enjoy!
How do you practice being present? What makes it hard for you to be present? Please share with us.