“The day will come when, after harnessing the ether, the winds, the tides, and gravitation, we shall harness for God the energies of love. And, on that day, for the second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire.” - Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
Some years ago I worked in a downtown office building, high above the city of Vancouver. Through walls of glass could be seen a spectacular view of sailboats in the harbor, float planes taking off and landing against the backdrop of the Coastal Mountains, sunlight glistening off the water. The inconveniences and challenges of the work itself were dwarfed by the joy I felt simply from being there.
Across the hall from our office, there often emerged a young lady who was smartly dressed and possessed beautiful long auburn hair. We encountered one another in the hallway that lead to the elevator. When we first met, I would smile brightly and say “Good Morning” or “Hello”. Her reply was surly. She scowled, slightly curled her lip, gave me barely a glance and then looked to the floor. Something seemed to be troubling her or perhaps she had simply developed the habit of being unfriendly towards strangers. It’s commonplace in the city to pass all kinds of people that we will never meet. She seemed to think, “Well really, I can’t just be friendly towards everyone! I don’t know her. What if she’s deranged or homicidal or keeps her grandmother in the attic?” And so we would descend in the elevator together before going our separate ways.
Several days or perhaps a week later, admiring her dress or her shoes, or genuinely feeling good about the day, I again smiled and said “Hello” or “Nice to see you.” Hoping that she would find a reason to be friendly in return. No such luck. Eyes widened, nostrils flared, chest puffed slightly, she again would barely acknowledge that another human being stood near to her.
Ah well, I reasoned. No sense getting down because someone else is in a snit. As the months passed I would persist with my smile and standard greeting. And slowly, ever so slowly, I began to notice that she softened. Her body language became less obtuse. The line that was her mouth began to curve upward. Her shoulders dropped and she relaxed. Then one day, preoccupied with one of those office problems that make up the bulk of the day’s work, I waited for the elevator with an unconscious grey cloud hovering over my head. Out she came from across the hall. She noticed me, smiled like she held the sun in her heart, looked me straight in the eyes and said “Good Morning!”
The power of love had overcome the love of power and this small gesture brightened my day. I forgot why I was so glum and cheered instantly as I basked, if only for a brief moment, in her warmth and vitality.
Eventually I moved on to other work, or she did. We never exchanged phone numbers or became friends or went for long windy walks. And yet, many years later, the memory is unforgotten. By a small persistent act, I changed the world. My world. Our world. Thinking of the girl in the hallway, I am reminded of the importance of the friendly greeting, the purposeful smile, the engagement of courtesy not based on how someone else acts or feels or looks – based on the change that I can bring to a moment with a stranger that creates a web of wellness wherein my joy is multiplied.
We so often focus on our bank balance, or our chances for promotion, trying to predict whether our next move will reap dividends or set us back. Like human calculators we seek to ‘get ahead’ and this habit is our undoing. It’s not these kind of mental gymnastics that create our prosperity. It’s the feeling of love or fellowship towards others that opens the door to opportunity. The power of a positive attitude and loving intentions towards friends or strangers creates lasting peace and harmony, one smile, one moment at a time.