Last month, about a dozen of us took to the streets of Silicon Valley on a warm, sunny Sunday -- simply to spread smiles to unsuspecting drivers and pedestrians. :)
As we'd initially recapped
From the symphony of car honks and thumbs-ups from smiling drivers, to pedestrian passersby who picked up the signs and joined in enthusiastically, Shiv's full-blast smile dance on the median and encouraging tips before-hand on how to get over feeling shy, Spoorthy spreading smiles inside the mall, :) conversations across lanes with drivers saying, "People don't do this anymore!", Prahallad literally "spreading" the smile with his fingerprints :), while two cops in police cars encouraged him on, Audrey exuberantly cheering people on to "have a beautiful day!" and "you have a great smile!," as she channeled Bermuda's Mr. Happy Man, Bradley gifting French toast to the homeless before he came(!) to spread smiles and smilingly reminding us all with his "you are loved" poster, Prakash and Shruti driving all the way from their community garden day across the Bay to spread smiles with us and gifting us fresh local produce from the farm, Deepa's stunning "65 smiles per hour minimum" font, and dancing on on the median towards the end as she stepped it up, Mahendra Uncle sharing delighted "car talk" stories as we made signs, and so much more in so many directions -- what a day! :)
What a day it certainly was, and below are a few more in-depth reflections from the experience...
One Simple Thing
As the day went on, one thing that struck me, or rather confirmed to me, is that all of us do have more in common than we have differences. With each honk; each thumbs up; each smile...we all really want just one simple thing and that is happiness. And our simple act, with a grounded intention of only trying to make someone’s day brighter, helped to do just that.
I saw that there are so many wonderfully kind and generous beings. Those that took the time engage in conversation, or those that just made eye contact and smiled. Thumbs up from bikers to police officers. There were the moments I felt awkward - when standing alone, wondering what others were thinking of me, forgetting about why I was even there - and then returning to the present moment, reminding myself that this wasn’t about, or even for, me. And when people didn’t react the way “I” wanted them to, that’s just a reminder to me that I cannot control the universe. My mind may want things to be a certain way, but as the Untethered Soul
reminds me, that’s what leads to suffering. So one person out of literally thousands gestured rudely... I must learn to experience that and then let it go.
And to think this all came out of Nandini’s not-so-fun daily commute to work. From our generous hosts, Nandini and Prahallad, providing us with a warm and nutritious lunch to Shiv and Deepa, who helped me understand what is really important, as they stayed late into the day, even with a looming appointment. And the homegrown gifts of Prakash and Shurti, who had just come with delicious treats from their community farm, and whose celery was half eaten by the time I arrived home! :) And, of course, Audrey’s infectious smile and enthusiasm, which helped to pull in a few passers-by, as they couldn’t help but partake in the fun!
And as I think of my own children and their interactions with their grandparents, I was so very touched by Mahendra Uncle, as he stopped by to share stories prior to his Saturday afternoon lunch with his own grandchildren. And what a delight to watch Spoorthy wade in the fountain, as the patient security officer tried to explain why she couldn’t do that :).
Micro-Moments And A Quote From My Brother
I too felt many micro-moments of simple connections throughout the day, first among all of us gathered, and then with many strangers crossing those traffic intersections with their smiles, thumbs ups, honks and those curious, confused looks and also with those water fountains and those trees & flowers in the neighborhoods. ... While we were enthusiastically flashing those beautifully crafted signs, one of my brothers in India sent this Charlie Chaplin's quote to my family: "I have many problems in my life. But my lips don't know that. They always Smile."
Well, my brother had no idea what we were up to on
this day over here in this part of the world thousands of miles away and oceans apart. What a timing, what a serendipity, indeed! Universe indeed has a way to conspire with us all teammates!
Thank you all for your sincere efforts to spread the smiles inside and out. May each mile be filled with more and more smiles :-)
All In This Together
One moment that stood out to me happened right when we arrived at the intersection. A man standing, waiting to cross the street, saw us and read some of our signs. He instantly greeted us as a friendly acquaintance, and asked, “Are you just doing this for fun?”
Yup,” we replied.
“And you’re not with an organization or trying to sell anything?”
“Yeah, we’re just a group of friends that wanted to spread some smiles here today,” we answered.
“Well, that’s great! You already made me smile,” he said, as the light turned green, and he turned to cross the street.
What a way to kick off the afternoon!
Another thing that struck me was seeing so many faces -- so many different walks of life behind car/truck/bus windshields, on motorcycles and bikes, or pedestrians crossing the street -- respond to such a universal symbol of benevolence: a call to smile. It was heartwarming to see people scrunch up their eyebrows at first, and then shoulders relax as their lips broke out into a wide grin, sometimes followed by a thumbs-up or excited wave or honk! In each of those instances, it was like remembering that we’re all in this thing called life together.
Each smile dissolved the illusory walls of our separateness a little bit more, expanding our hearts into the sea of humanity that happened to converge on the hot pavement at the corner of El Camino Real and Scott Boulevard on this sunny Saturday afternoon. :)
More photos from the day. :)