Photographs by Laurie @ Horizons Photography

February 3, 2012

The crossing guard revolution

Meet Joe!

A while ago I posted about Project Smile, which in itself is not really a project but for me it's been a social experiment that I continue as the weeks, months and yes now it's even been over a year since I began this quest.

I have learned more I am afraid about me during this study of people than I have really learned about the people sharing this city with me, I have had the joy of discovering how being 'nice' can change someone's day, and how being grumpy can alter one's whole week(or more to the point, how a smile can make my day but if someone is grumpy with me I carry that around all week, wondering if I had done something wrong, or worse, what was going on in their life to cause such pain.)

For the newbies to the Blog let me first tell you about Project Smile. It's simple. Instead of walking down the street with my head phones on, with a phone at my ear, or with my eyes averting anyone I happen to pass I instead do my best to meet the eyes of the people I pass on by and I smile at them. I have had all sorts of reactions, the best reactions strangley coming from the least likely people. The people that you wouldn't think would smile back, let alone say hello or have a good week or God bless you. The homeless man on the corner, the child on a school bus, the older woman trying to carry her groceries back to her Condo. I had originally thought I would garner smiles from other Mothers, people more like me but I was wrong.

We have a new crossing guard on our corner, and every day I pass by him in my car, he doesn't notice me but I notice him. He sits, bundled against the cold on a little camping chair, his stop sign slung across his lap like a guitar, and he strums it like it really is an old acoustic, and he sings, with a smile. Every day I smile as I pass by this man, every day I feel my heart warmed by him, every day he is singing and smiling.

Today I had to walk down the school to get the registration forms for Josh's school next year and I had to pass this crossing guard for the first time on foot. He was just arriving at his post and setting up his chair, so my original thought was to pass by without saying a word. However, I found that I could make my feet move past him. I had to stop, I had to tell him how he made me smile every day. So I stopped, waited for him to set up his chair, place his bag safely underneath, and then as he stood up he turned and saw me and his face lit up. He said hello and was about to cross me but I stopped him. I had no need to cross the road. I smiled at him and I shared with him what his 'air guitar' did for me every day. I told him how much both Tim and I enjoy watching him having so much fun no matter how cold the weather, if it's raining or snowing or just plain freezing, he is just always having fun sitting on that camp chair and singing his tune.

The joy and life that rose up in his face, his smile, his eyes... I am so glad I stopped.

It made me reevaluate Project Smile. I have always waited to catch someone's eye before I smiled, I have always waited for the friendly greeting before offering my own. However, as of today the project is shifting. I want to be the person that people enjoy passing by, I want to be the person that is always smiling and having fun regardless of where I am, or if I even know I am being watched. We have all heard the poem that says 'dance as if know is watching, sing as if no one can hear you...' I want to be that person. (mostly because I can't dance or sing to save my life - ask Tim)

That crossing guard has inspired me, and as he was saying goodbye to me, thanking me for stopping by, I realized that I want to be more like him. How this plays out in my life? Well, I haven't thought that far ahead, I don't know what it will look like. I just know that I want to make someone smile and I don't even want to know I did it. I want someone to go home at night and tell their husband about the woman they saw who just looked so happy, so nice, so fun. I would like to inspire someone to smile, to have some fun, to enjoy the day. I want to start a revolution!

I haven't written about this project in quite sometime, but I really believe that if we pulled our heads out of our respective phones and actually looked at the people around us, shared a smile, a greeting, offered a helping hand if needed, helping an older person across the road, offering a conversation to a lonely woman, making a child giggle instead of cry, making time to feel a homeless man/woman feel less invisible, we would begin to build a community where we are and in a city it's the most precious thing in the world to be a part of a community. Even the homeless guy on the street needs a smile, a touch, a hot coffee now and again.

It starts with one person, my revolution started with a crossing guard!