In Her Words - Kindness Through A Smile

Today’s guest post comes from a very beautiful place. I had the privilege of meeting writer Julia Smith at a book event for Jennifer Pastiloff, author of On Being Human: A Memoir of Waking Up, Living Real, and Listening Hard. I was so impressed by her grace and her connectedness. She is making this world a better place to live.

Here is her story on Kindness.

Kindness is connection. In a world where we often find ourselves feeling that every man, woman, and human is for themselves,  We have become masters of avoidance, inadvertently secluding ourselves from the kindness of others. The fear of rejection even from a total stranger can be overwhelming and anxiety-inducing. We often times assume that because someone does not know you they could care less about your life, whether that be hardships or accomplishments.

Working in the customer service industry for three-plus years now (since my senior year of high school), I’ve learned most everyone craves connection, but we don’t always know how to make that connection. I’m a front desk agent at the Holiday Inn, and half of my guests aren’t on vacation. Most are away on business, working through the day without the promise of going home to the comfort of their own bed or their families. More people than I’d ever have imagined call my hotel home after their own homes have been destroyed by flooding or fire. People don’t always feel like trying to connect with you after a long day or a long month, but the kindness of connection can carry us through the hard times.

Reaching out and making that connection could be what brightens someone's day. A simple smile from you could be someone’s hope for a better tomorrow, laughing at a joke that might not be your sense of humor, or actively listening because we usually have the time to spare.

I want to share a story about a guest I once had. This guest was a woman, an incredible woman, who could not catch a break. Life was dragging her through the dirt relentlessly.

 After moving to a new town following a recent divorce, now a single mother of three, she sustained severe physical injuries, had her home flood, and was forced to move into a hotel. My hotel wasn’t her first choice, or maybe the insurance's first choice, but the racial prejudice of employees resulting in her mistreatment forced her to move again, this time to my hotel.

The first thing she said to me after walking inside and seeing me at the front desk, after noting her question might seem unusual, “Has this hotel had any problems with black people?” I must have looked like someone slapped me across the face and that’s how I felt, thinking of what kind of events led her to feel like she had to ask such a question. No one should ever be made to feel unsafe or unwelcome by a business or institution of any kind.

Doing my best to reassure her, she starts to apologize. I assure her that it is not necessary, but every hardship she’d faced during the past month seemed to pour out of her so casually like she was overflowing. She needed no explanation, yet she continued to explain to me everything leading up to her arrival at my front desk. So I listened. I listened to her story and her trauma and I empathized with her. I could never fully understand what it was she had been through and I certainly couldn’t take away any of her pain or problems, but I could listen with kindness and understanding, and be present with her in that moment. 

That could be any of us. Most of us have had a point in our lives where we felt helpless and overwhelmed by the chaos of life, and sometimes you just need someone to listen, to smile, to connect. I’m practicing 21 days of kindness by smiling at anyone whose eyes I meet, by sparing the time I haven’t dedicated to any other part of my day and listening to those who need to be heard. You never know the kind of positive impact you can have on someone’s day or even their life, and that’s a beautiful thing. 

Julia Smith, 20 

Sacramento, CA