Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Noticing Others

Some months back I was on a date with my husband, and we stopped at a gas station near our home to get some cash out of the ATM to pay our babysitter.  I went inside the gas station to get change, because all I got out of the ATM were twenties.

Before I ran inside, I remembered that Steve had mentioned that there is a girl who works behind the counter at this station who never smiles, and Steve just couldn't understand why.  She was pretty good looking and fairly young.  Steve had tried in the past to make her crack a smile or at least a "non-frown"--but no dice. 

Feeling giddy (we were on a date after all)--and noticing that this girl was on-duty that night--I told Steve, "You watch...I am going to get that girl to smile..."

So he stayed in the car and watched, and I went inside.  

I picked out my pack of gum and walked up to the counter.

I took a quick but thorough look at her.  She was indeed attractive, but seemed to be purposefully not smiling.  Then I looked at her hand and noticed a sparkly new engagement ring.

That was my ticket.

I said excitedly, "Wow, that's a really beautiful ring!"  (And it was.)

Her face immediately lit up as she smiled a smile that she seemed completely unable to contain.

I knew without even turning around that Steve was freaking out in the car as he watched this whole thing unfold.  In less than three seconds, I had done what Steve couldn't in weeks of trying.

Then I asked her when she was getting married and how he proposed all of that, and she answered with the same enthusiasm, still beaming.  As I left, I looked at her again...She looked like a totally different person!

I strutted back to the car.  I too felt like a completely different person.  I could barely wait to close the door before doing my victory/"schooled-you" celebration for Steve.

We were both laughing hysterically, like two kids on a high from completing a secret dare.  Steve was dying to know what I had done.  He was sure that I had slipped her some money or something to get her to smile!

"Oh, please.  I'm just goooood," I said.

The funny thing about that statement is that right after I said it, I realized that I am actually not that "good"...not like I used to be.  I used to be so good at remembering names, faces, birthdays, details of every last conversation--aspects that made it easy for me to notice when something was new next time we spoke.  Maybe it's just the process of childbearing that makes one turn their focus from mankind to childkind out of necessity.  Perhaps it's the stress of life as a full-fledged adult who has to say No like 700 times a day :)...maybe it's my depression or maybe I'm just getting older?  But it has been a while since I was perky just for the sake of making someone else smile (someone other than my husband and kids, I should say!)  I miss that.

There's no time like the present right?  I'm making a goal for myself to notice others, to not just notice them, but to tell them that I notice them...to be emotionally present for them, to let even my tone of voice be light and joyful on their behalf, and to celebrate what it is about them that is wonderful and worth celebrating.  Just as that girl seemed to be deliberate in her refusal to smile, this is a choice that I am making for myself, to reclaim an expression of joy that was once a core part of who I am and my interactions with others...and it will be once again, with some work.

I think that I am finally getting to the point where I can truthfully say that I am thankful for my experiences with depression.  It has taught me to appreciate the things that once came so naturally for me, things that I probably took a bit for granted before.  I don't take them for granted anymore.  I feel that I am slowly dragging the pieces of myself that I love back out of the dark hole that is the illness, and saying, 'Hey, that belongs to me. And I want it back!'

Watch out, gas station workers of the world.  I'm coming for you.

I think that this post was tipped off by Day 2 of 
Crystal Wilkerson's Gratitude Journal prompts:

Check it out here...


  1. I so needed to read this! Thank you for reminding me that I don't just need to be looking for joy, I need to find opportunities to help create it! Glad you could make someone smile. I guarantee it was contagious and she went on to help someone else find a smile. Joy is like that.

  2. I love what you've written about just noticing people - looking for something new, something bright to encourage and applaud. It is really hard for me, as well, to lift my eyes from my own busy life, and to really see the opportunities around me to do something. Thanks for the beautiful reminder.

  3. timely prompt for this month or anytime. I have a friend like that if she's standing in line with someone or a waitress or anyonoe near us, Caryn starts up a conversation and they leave fast friends. She's an inspiration to me. Everyone has something you can notice and compliment them about...

  4. I had a similar experience with a receptionist at our recreation center, every week I would have an attitude with her and she with me and then I'd go complaining to my friends about it. One day I noticed her engagement ring and told her how gorgeous it was, she LIT up like a Christmas tree! We've been able to joke and smile at each other for months now, its amazing what a little "noticing" will do! Changed my perspective about EVERYONE I see on a daily basis!

  5. Love that story. Made me think of a similar one - but I am far too selfish to share it here. (I think I'll save it for MY blog.)

    Thanks for brightening my day - and I don't even work at a gas station.

  6. What a great thought and well worth doing. The thing is, connecting with others in that way makes us feel every bit as good as they do!


  7. I loved this story and message! Thanks for reminding us of the really simple we can do for others. Everyone can do this--cheer up someone and it doesn't cost a penny:)

  8. Such a beautiful story. I know in the past when I've come across someone with a scowl on their face, I've shamefully written them off as mean or rude, but really all they needed was someone to make them smile. Good for you for being such an awesome example! I'm definitely going to remember this post.

  9. What a neat experience. I think that small acts/words/hugs of kindness can change lives. I know that they've changed mine (as both giver and receiver). Thanks for sharing such a powerful reminder! We truly can make a difference for each other.

  10. I love this post; it was a great story. I also admire you for helping this young girl have better moments at work. I love the idea of getting people to smile and interact wit you. Being in the here and now. I struggle with the same thing and I liked your ideas.
    Blessings to you for a fun post!

  11. I love this post; it was a great story. I also admire you for helping this young girl have better moments at work. I love the idea of getting people to smile and interact wit you. Being in the here and now. I struggle with the same thing and I liked your ideas.
    Blessings to you for a fun post!

  12. Oh, wow! Thanks for that great story. I think that really noticing others and being fully engaged in meaningful conversation is what I'm needing to give myself that extra boost these days. Thanks!

  13. This post was wonderful! I was kind of wishing I had been the lucky gas station worker :) Then I realized, no, I need to be better about making someone else's day like you Joscelyn does!

  14. Love the idea. I am reading a book called "A Heart Like His" by Sister Pierce?? Your 'challenge' is similar to one of the 'assignments' in the book.
    Thanks for sharing your experience. It is a second witness that I need to make this kind of change in my life.

  15. Oh I SO agree with you, and love this little story. I think that just making that extra effort to really HEAR or LEARN about someone instead of just the how are you? moments make all the difference.