Today, I waited outside the SmartStyle haircut place in WalMart as the woman before me finished with her new 'do. I once got my haircut here just out of sheer convenience and a need for a quick option. I found myself not only impressed with the quality of the cut for the price, but I also struck up a great conversation with the stylist. I learned that the transient nature of that job in locations like these make it pretty fleeting and less than compelling for many who are there, so I often choose to go back, have a genuine conversation with them about real life stuff, and actually tip them (which apparently a bunch of customers don't do) as a small way of bringing a bit more humanity into an otherwise volume-driven day.
But this isn't a story about my haircut.
As I waited my turn and leafed through George Hunsberger's "The Story that Chooses Us," I noticed one of the cashiers in the WalMart portion of the store. Like many employees in our area, she's a college student who works her way through school at Radford University. She'd helped me before and in so doing left a distinct impression with her smile. She looks each customer right in the eye, smiles brightly, and speaks directly to them. I remembered how refreshing that was to me before, and sure enough, each time I glanced up from my book, that grin beamed from her face into the person across the belt from her. Both black and white, young and old, dirty from work and dressed to the nines, each person received this same compelling welcome to Register 4. The fluorescent lights seemed dim compared to her brightness.
Later this day, during our yoga class at CLC, our instructor reminded us to smile in the midst of one of our poses, not just a faux grin, but an attempt to find the joy in the practice of yoga, even and perhaps especially through the portions that were difficult for us. To smile while you do enter poses, even difficult ones, may help to inspire joy in places that you didn't think possible. Though I never felt happy in downward dog, the next time we entered that pose, I smiled, then giggled, then realized a joy had entered that I'd not found before in that pose.
Almost immediately, my mind flew back to the WalMart, just a few miles away, where this young woman likely still stood, checking out customers and sending them away with more than just groceries, but with the radiance of a smile. The first time I checked out in her aisle, months ago, I mentioned something about how nice it was to see such a smile in the midst of a hectic day. She grinned even wider - who knew that was possible? - and said, "Smile like you mean it, right?" There were a gaggle of impatient shoppers behind me, so we didn't have time time to explore the conversation any more. Because of that, I'd forgotten about the exchange until I stood there in WalMart. But it didn't make sense to me until yoga that night.
Smile like you mean it, with the melody from The Killers running through my brain, and you just might mean it. I don't know if this cashier means it every time she smiles through the good and the grind of the day, but I know she smiles like she means it. I hope, at least sometimes, it seeps into her core, that she does find joy at Register 4, because her attempt to bring joy to others surely brightened the WalMart experience. The next time I see her, I'm going to thank her for smiling like she means it, because even if she didn't find the joy she exuded, she gives it away in an inspiring fashion.
I hope we can all be a bit more like her, not just grinning like fools through the pain, but smiling in the difficult yoga poses of life, brightening the mundane WalMart aisles we enter, seeing every stranger through the lens of a smile. This is something like what Martin Luther called looking charitably upon your neighbor, or putting the best possible spin on the people that you meet. In other words, don't assume the worst, but assume the best of those that we encounter. This applies not only to our neighbors, but to all the normalcy we face day in and day out. If we smile we smile like we mean it, and see the world through that Christ-shaped smile, we just might see the world become a bit more like the Kingdom of God.
Simultaneously a sinner and a saint.