The air is damp and heavy. It feels thick and moist with each breath. Walking the trail is a challenge today. I want to turn around and go back home. Something doesn’t feel right. Maybe its the wet warmth that presses down on my shoulders. Maybe its the battleship gray of the sky. Maybe. it’s the invisible suitcase I drag behind me. This morning it is full of rocks. I pretend it isn’t there and keep walking.
At the intersection, I wait for the walk signal. A white van pulls up and makes a right turn against the light. The windows of the van are down and as it turns, I hear angry voices and an expletive. The imprint of the word hangs in the air like a bloody meat hook. It is distasteful. I don’t want to be a witness to this anger, this destruction. The van turns and accelerates at an unreasonable speed. Angry voices continue to cut through the heavy air. I feel sad and I sigh.
I cross the street and begin to walk on the trail. Soon, I hear a woman’s voice rise and fall rapidly. She sounds like an angry bird, chirping a warning to stay away from her nest. Occasionally, a phrase pierces through the bird-like chatter and I hear:
” then, HE said. . . .
“I don’t know what HE expects…
“I told him I am an ADULT.”
Chirp, Chirp, Chirp. Squawk!
Her friends say nothing. I have my back to them so I can not read their faces. This morning is serving me something unpleasant. It tastes bitter in my mouth. I do not like it. I push the unpleasant, angry voices out of my head and concentrate on cutting loose my invisible suitcase. I walk faster. I do not want to hear any more from the angry bird.
I try and smile at strangers. They stare back at me with solemn faces. Is there some solar flare that is spewing negative ions across the happiness of our earth? Did we all eat something bad and tainted in our breakfast cereal as we chase the last few circles of cereal around a milky pond? Did some evil Sandman sprinkle discord over us as we slept? Maybe it’s the weather. The unusual mugginess puts us on edge. We know the world of endless cold rain, not this gentle humidity. We are cranky and take out our frustrations on those we love or say we love.
I turn back home at the halfway point. I continue smiling at strangers but my heart is no longer in it. I’m back at the intersection of anger and frustration before I know it. The first time crossing this street I was witness to a private drama, the angry couple, the expletive. It cast a dark shadow over the rest of my walk until, the unexpected happens. A young female jogger is crossing the street. She looks and smiles a big, wonderful, genuine smile.
With happiness in her voice she says, “Good morning! How are you this morning?”
My returning smile had to betray my surprise and delight in her. I can not remember a greeting ever sounding as welcoming and as lovely as that of this young adult. I wrapped her smile around me and used it like armor to dispel the grumpiness the rest of the world had been busy dishing out. Hope came in the form of a smile. A smile and a young woman reminded me that sometimes that’s all it takes. A smile can sometimes move the world.