“I firmly believe in small gestures: pay for their coffee, hold the door for strangers, over-tip, smile or try to be kind even when you don’t feel like it, pay compliments, chase the kid’s runaway ball down the sidewalk and throw it back to him, try to be larger than you are— particularly when it’s difficult. People do notice, people appreciate. I appreciate it when it’s done to me. Small gestures can be an effort, or actually go against our grain, but the irony is that almost every time you make them, you feel better about yourself. For a moment life suddenly feels lighter, a bit more Gene Kelly dancing in the rain.” — Jonathan Carroll
In times when life feels slow, mundane, perhaps a bit uncertain, it’s easy to start seeing the things that are not-quite-perfect, the things you’d rather change, the disappointments. It’s when you’re in that average middle, when you’re on the lookout for that big change or fresh start, that it’s all too easy to see what you don’t like, what didn’t go right, before you see anything good. But you know what? I think it’s all about attitude.
Last month I experienced a big disappointment, and for two weeks after that I felt continually let down. The smallest change of plans, an un-returned email, boring work—all seemed to be letting me down in monumental ways. I sat there thinking to myself, life hasn’t been horrible lately, but it hasn’t been great, and I’m sick of feeling disappointed. And then it hit me. In that not-horrible-not-great zone of life, that mundane average, we get to choose which things are our signposts and which are just bumps in the road. We can choose to see the bad things, the negatives, the let-downs and let those color everything around us. Or we can choose to find small joys, be on the lookout to give and receive a tiny kindness that can have a big impact.
So, I’m done counting up my disappointments. Because when you’re on high alert for them, you will certainly see them anywhere. Things get blown out of proportion and you find yourself on the verge of tears because no one wants to go to trivia night with you. No, instead I’m choosing my small joys. I’m choosing to see the sweetness in a slow morning, listening to the wind blow and watching the steam rise up from my hot coffee. I’m reveling in the beauty of a walk to my favorite park where I can read a good book. I’m laughing over a spontaneous, post-work dance party with my co-workers and touched by a late-night chat with my roommate. Just like disappointments, when you start keeping your eyes peeled for small joys, you’ll start seeing them wherever you turn. And you’ll be a lot more apt to hand them out, offering small gestures to those you encounter and making their day brighter. And for a moment life suddenly feels lighter, a bit more Gene Kelly dancing in the rain.