“We rise by lifting others!”

I remember reading this story many years ago:

It’s the mid 70’s and a 30-something man makes his way across the Golden Gate Bridge.  He’s passed by pedestrians and cyclists, and steps around tourists taking pictures of Alcatraz, Angel Island, and the channel of water below that runs between San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean.  He gazes up at the reddish-orange towers soaring above, and then climbs over the bridge’s four-foot safety railing.  He steps out onto a 32-inch wide beam known as “the chord,” pauses, takes one last long look out at the bay, and then jumps.  The Coast Guard soon arrives to recover his body.  When the medical examiner later located and searched the man’s sparse apartment, he found a note the man had written and left on his bureau. It read:  “I’m going to walk to the bridge. If one person smiles at me on the way, I will not jump.”

So let me ask you a question, “On those occasions when you make eye contact with someone who is a complete stranger, which of the following actions are you most likely to take:

  1. Maintain eye contact and nod you head in recognition
  2. Maintain eye contact and smile
  3. Maintain eye contact, smile and verbally greet them
  4. Break eye contact and go about your business with no further interaction.

I’m somewhat of an extrovert, and I’ve always been one to at least nod my head and smile.  More often than not I will offer a greeting, be it a “Hi!”, “How are you?”, “Have a good day!”, etc..  Reactions vary, sometimes there is simply a blank look and no response.  Often I will get a non-verbal acknowledgement via a nod.  Sometimes there is a smile and a thanks (“I’m doing very well, thank you for asking.”).  And on a few occasions there has been the challenge. (“Do I know you?”).  Yep, I was feeling pretty good about bringing a little sunshine into the lives of others, and then a face mask snuffed out my smile!

I think we all miss those smiles.  There is nothing like seeing a friend’s face light up when you see each other unexpectedly.  Likewise, there is nothing that can make you feel better than greeting a complete stranger with a smile and seeing them smile back.  However, our current situation requires, for everyone’s safety, the use of a face mask when we are unable to socially distance ourselves from others.  So what can we do?  How about a little thumbs-up.

The thumbs-up hand gesture can be traced back to ancient Rome where it was reportedly used as a sign to spare a gladiator’s life.  In the medieval period it was a custom used to seal a business transaction.  The symbol was popularized in the United States during WWII, as a sign used by pilots to signal a readiness for takeoff.  More recently, the thumbs up sign was emojified (👍👍🏽👍🏿) and is considered to be one of the most used texting characters.

I can’t think of a better time to start using a thumbs-up greeting with those we come in contact with.  It’s important that we still make that eye contact and smile, as I believe our eyes will reveal the smile, but why not couple it with a thumbs-up and, “Have a great day”, “Good to see you”, or  “Keep the faith.”  Remember, we each have the power to make someone’s day a little brighter by sharing a smile or thumbs-ups.  A greeting doesn’t take a great deal of time or effort, but that simple action can make all the difference; it can send the signal that someone cares, and in today’s world, a little extra care is something we could all use. 

Embrace the Challenge !!