When I was an executive, an office colleague – a lawyer – retorted she was so busy with work and family that she had no time for charity work unlike ‘some people’ – she was referring to me in a derisive tone.

Here I was managing six workshops, had a busy travel schedule, had three young children of my own and capable wife no doubt, my weekends were ‘fully committed’.

Obviously, time management eluded my colleague but, as Mechanic Leigh would say, that is another story.

I asked her to smile.

“What?” she flew, barely hiding her annoyance.

I said, “Smile – at the coffee lady, the washroom attendant, the newsboy – smile, that is charity enough for a start. It is free, not time-consuming and you’ll receive more than you give.”

She stomped off, muttering under her breath.

Several years later (I was managing my business then) l met her at the airport departure lounge – she was travelling light – still no smile…

Based on true events.

********** (Copyright @ Eric Alagan, 2012) **********

60 comments

  1. You’ve got many replies to this post … so I doubt you will read my … late entry … I fight every day, every night actually for the same cause you are mentioning … never mind my bad English, eh? … yes, you guessed it … I’m an immigrant … well educated and all … but the other day somebody asked me to get the mop and clean up after “him” … because that’s what immigrants do, right? Turns out that I am “his” boss … he is still working for me … he is a lovely worker … he will never make this mistake again …

    1. I try to read all comments, no matter how ‘old’ my posts are, Cat. Though admittedly, I do miss replying to some.

      Your English is good and I’ve no problems understanding it. English is also my second language.

      Well, that is interesting. Your staff actually mistook you on account that you are a foreigner (and a woman?). Yes, good worker perhaps but with certain reference points, I gather. Gracious of you to keep him.

      I too, roll up my sleeves and work in the trenches. Once, I was in the warehouse helping to unstuff a container. A despatch rider came with my air tickets and spoke to me very very rudely – not realising that I was the company managing director. Even after realising his mistake, he refused to back down as in Asia – it is all about ‘losing face’ for some people.

      I called his company and spoke to his boss – told her that I don’t want to see him again. His boss apologised and we kept them as our service provider but I never saw that man again.

      My sentiments are, it is okay to make mistakes – but —

  2. That’s sad. There’s nothing too difficult about stretching your mouth a few millimeters, and it could’ve done wonders for her!

    1. When one does not know – that is ignorance
      When one is told but refuses to hear – that is stupid
      When one is told and knows it costs nothing but still refuses to do – that is stubborn

      Stubborn and stupid – what a brew 🙂

      I’m being rude here, am I not.

  3. I have found that people who are too engrossed in self rarely ever have what it takes to even smile….too busy trying to feel self-important and totally ignoring the simple pleasures in life which make life worth the living. Someone told me yesterday that he’s never seen me without a smile. I was awed and blushed a bit thinking I may look a bit silly walking around with a smiling face all the time, LOL. But you know what, we have to come to the place where we learn to even smile at the storm. Thanks for giving me smiles each time I visit your page 🙂

    1. “…never seen (you) without a smile.”

      Wow! What a wonderful gift you have – keep smiling – the world needs it, even if many do not realise it.

      1. Haha, I’m beginning to assess it now. I was quite surprised since I sometimes feel like I’m so miserable LOL. Maybe he hasn’t seen me enough 😀 But true, I sometimes smile or even laugh to myself for seemingly no reason. Maybe it’s a sign of insanity 😀

  4. This goes nicely with some of your posts on freedom. Here is a person who feels so enslaved to commitments of various kinds that she feels unfree to even smile. (Maybe freedom is partly a state of mind?)

  5. Aren’t we all challenged in our lives by at least one lady like this one? And yet, we know we must smile even broader each time we encounter them, right? (And let’s not even go there and mention any Saturday Night LIve-style “church ladies” we have in our midst, shall we?! (tee,hee!))

    1. The first 20 years I worked in a multinational, there was a senior man so grouchy and scratchy, we avoided him > he walked with his face dragging on the floor and we were afraid to step on it > didn’t want to soil our shoes. Perhaps one day, I might post something about this poor fellow.

      P/s Would love to hear stories about your ‘church ladies’ – that should be a hoot 🙂

  6. Some people just choose to be miserable. I make sure I avoid them like the plague. I’m not going to be on this earth long enough to spend my days being unhappy. Good post, it reminds us to be the best we can be.

    1. I agree Susan – it is best to simply avoid disagreeable people where we can.

      I do it all the time. Even here in my blog, sometimes I receive such opinionated comments – no problems with that as I welcome differing view points – but not when the writer insists that I MUST agree with him/her or I MUST do this or that…

  7. Smiling is one of the most important things we can do for others AND for ourselves. Here’s to more smiling. To smile more was my New Years Resolution a couple of years ago. Rather than doing the usual lose weight, got to the gym more, drink less wine I opted for smiling more. It quite simply changed so much for me. It’s been my New Years Resolution ever since.

    1. This is wonderful Jacqueline – the best Resolution ever, because it is so doable and spreads so much good vibes.

      I also agree – ‘drink less wine’ – should never be a resolution 🙂

  8. I’ve heard it many times before; happiness is a choice, and so is depression. I may not be able to afford money, or much time, but I still try to make people smile, and laugh when I can.

  9. You write ups are so wonderfully woven Eric..i just love them….I remembered a Maya Angelou quote- If you have only one smile in you, give it to the people you love. Don’t be surly at home, then go out in the street and start grinning Good morning…
    Although she was talking about home but combined with what you wrote its so true isnt it ..some people just live their entire life as if the whole weight of earth is on their shoulder…..
    And i think what a terrible waste of those beautiful curves we can build every day with our lips

    1. Well Soma, my dear – thank you for your kind words of support.

      It is right that we should begin within our homes. It is okay to wash our feet before entering our homes but not wash away our smile/joy.

      I’m all for beautiful curves in the right places 🙂

      P/s I’m not being naughty

  10. A grouchy face requires more muscles to cringe and is definitely heavier, maybe that’s why she needs to travel light..ha..ha…
    When you smile or say thank you, often you just made somebody’s day better though sometimes you get a frown in return. Just continue with the good gesture.
    By the way, you have just quoted Mechanic Leigh – he will be laughing in glee !!

    1. Great view point.

      I thought about it back then and still do – who are we to judge when only she knows – as a corporate person/mother/wife what loads she carries. That was why her responses did not upset but brought out the sympathy within.

  11. Oh, I know people like this. I stay away from them because they drain happiness from those they come into contact with. It’s like trying to walk while someone holds your ankles.

    I’m sorry she didn’t take your advice, though. I like to ask workers at a store how they’re doing before they ask me. Often I get a startled response, or something like, “You’re the first person to ask me today.” Yep, that always feels nice 🙂 (this is me smiling.)

    1. Good on you Janna,

      I think I’ll try that – ask after the persons serving me in stores/restaurants/counters/etc – before they ask me.

      Thank you 🙂

    1. You said it and said it well Fay – without making judgements – bless you 🙂

      I felt more sorrow than anger at her derisive remarks/behaviour. It is difficult to reach out until one is ready, I suppose.

      1. I have never understood why some people choose to be miserable or unhappy. Life can’t be fun living that way, can it? I would think it would be a lonely existence — bitter folks run everyone else off.

    1. I suppose she could be trying to live up to what she thought was society’s expectations. One has to only read the stories flaunted in lifestyle magazines – the go getting all rounder. Of course, there is a price…

      You are right Jeannie – she’s a poor soul (note the present tense).

      Our sympathy and empathy to her/people in her shoes

  12. The question I most got asked when I did volunteer work (meals on wheels etc) was ‘Do you get paid?’ Some people don’t understand the concept of helping out for free or that the ‘payment’ is in something so much better than dollars 🙂

    1. Bless you for the volunteer work you gave. I believe all of us should give some of our time to charity – even if it is only for a short stint.

      When we help others – whatever form that help takes – we always get paid, though many (especially those who don’t help) might not readily recognise the payment.

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