The Gift of a Smile

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That was fun last night, I think as I open my eyes. A few hours prior, I video chatted with a friend and the copious amount of jokes easily settled my usually restless sleeping pattern. I inch upward and begin to sit up. I expect the clock to read the usual wake up time of 5:30 am. Instead, I see in the iHome’s fainted blue background light 7:25 am staring at me. Instant panic grips my body. I am going to be late! This is normally the time that I leave my apartment, and here I am still dressed in my warm flannel pajama bottoms and a white t-shirt.

I bolt out of bed and rush to the bathroom to begin my now late morning routine. Aside from making sure that I clean the inside part of my teeth, my mind is preoccupied with the very real possibility of being late to work. Of all days to be late, I choose the one when my early morning class begins in less than an hour. I need to be on time because my sixth graders are preparing for their grammar test the next day. Today’s class is our final review session, and I already anticipate multiple questions about verbs, subjects, and adjectives. Oh and traffic is going to be horrific at this time of morning as well. Shoot me now, I think.

I quickly get dress and head to the elevator. My attractive neighbor and her daughter are already waiting there. We exchange morning pleasantries and step onto the elevator.

It stops at the third floor.

Three children and their mom enter.

It stops at the second floor.

One young boy and his mom enter, along with one older woman who always has an attitude in the morning. She seems to be in a different mood today because she engages the mom from the third floor in a conversation about how tall and beautiful the oldest daughter has become…all in Spanish. I understand. Small victory.

The elevator stops at the first floor.

Another neighbor, who is a teacher evident by her multicolored rolling crate, attempts to get on but quickly realizes that there is no room for her and her carry-on.

Really. Today you are going to act like this, huh? Oh, ok. I let out what I thought was a barely audible sigh, but it must have been loud enough because at least two of the children in the elevator turn and look at me.

Finally, it stops at the lobby floor.

Politely, I wait until all the children and women exit the elevator. A few more seconds lost. As I exit the building, the cold, brisk wind welcomes me to mother nature’s bipolar weather party, and quickly reminds me that I forgot my winter hat upstairs in my coat closet. I begin to walk to my car. I cannot be late, not today, I think to myself over and over. As my legs speedily stride toward my parked car, I see a family walking towards the school which is at the end of my block. I smile as we pass each other, and something special happens. The little boy, no older than eight, returns my smile with one of his own. It happily borders a laugh because he seems surprised and interestingly amused that I smiled at him. My smile broadens.

His innocent smile carries me through my day (sidenote: I was only like one or two minutes late), putting a smile on my face whenever I think of our brief yet meaningful moment. Waking up late, the slow elevator ride, and other small incidents all led me to experience the gift of a smile.

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