October 24th, 2016

She Smiled at Me

By G. E. Shuman
One day last week I was in my car, and happened to have just approached an intersection in downtown Barre, when something simple, but somehow profound, happened to me. Just as I was slowing to stop at the intersection, a young woman came around the corner of a building and headed down the sidewalk, facing toward me. This lady was pushing one of those ‘double’ baby strollers, which was occupied by two very young infants. Although I am not normally a very ‘smiley’ person, it is my natural inclination to smile when I see a baby. I’m not sure why that is, other than the fact that I have always loved babies and small children. (For this very reason, I am attempting, personally, to go right from my first childhood into my second, and avoid all of that nasty adulthood stuff in between. So far I have succeeded quite well at this. Just ask my wife.)

The thing that happened next, as you have probably guessed from the title, is that the young woman must have seen me smiling at her beautiful twins, as I waited for the traffic light to change. I looked up at her, and she immediately smiled back at me. That was it… that was all, and you might be wondering why I was so struck by her smile, to call the occurrence profound. Well, you see, as I drove away, probably never to see those infants or their proud mom again, I realized that she had appreciated MY appreciating her children, and let me know that, with a smile. I think that that appreciation doesn’t happen much today, especially with strangers. I also think that fact is a sad one.

We live in a sinful, dangerous world today, where kids are rightly taught to not speak to strangers; and one in which children are kidnapped, or neglected, or abused. Such horrifying things are in the news almost daily. When I was young, such terrible occurrences were rare, and most parents felt safe allowing their kids to play throughout the neighborhood. Even as preteens, my friends and I would spend summer evenings playing army or cops and robbers on our street and even in the woods, guided only by moonlight. There was not the fear of danger then that parents must face today.

Even though I hate the idea, I think that people like me, from my generation, need to be careful these days, for the sake of the kids, and I need to heed my own advice. For years now, when my wife has been pushing a shopping cart around the supermarket on a Saturday morning, (and I am dutifully following her), I just love waving at the young kids in their carts, and getting smiles and waves in return. (I have to have some fun). Truthfully, and sadly, this is probably counterproductive, if their parents are teaching them to not trust strangers.

Still, that day in my car, at that downtown Barre intersection, I felt a bit of hope, that not everyone is suspected of evil intent just because they are someone who is unknown. I happened to be in the right place at the right time that day, to see the double blessing that was riding in that double stroller. I also saw a joyful young mom, and she smiled at me.

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