Up until this spring there had been a certain elderly gentleman that walked regularly in our neighborhood. He appeared to me to be of Asian descent and perhaps not over 5’6” in height. But there were really only two reasons that he stood out to me. First, he had a very distinctive gait pattern. He walked with a fairly brisk pace and his arm would swing back in an arc all the way behind his back as he walked along. It may have been part of his daily exercise to get the most out of his walk, but it was memorable. But the biggest thing I remember about him was his smile. Interestingly enough, it wasn’t a huge smile. It just always struck me as kind and genuine. I would drive by in my car, he would wave and flash a small smile, and I truly felt blessed by him.
In the 3-4 seconds that it took to see his greeting as I drove past, it was enough to make a difference in my day. So much so that there were numerous occasions where I wanted to stop and just thank him for his smile. But every single time I talked myself out of it. I came up with numerous excuses – I was too busy, there was a car coming up behind me, or he seemed too busy. But there was really only one reason that I never stopped. I was just too embarrassed. I worried that I would look strange and so I never made a point to tell him just how many times he made my day just by seeing him.
And now, I haven’t seen him. A couple of weeks ago my husband Chris asked me if I had seen him lately and it was then I realized that I hadn’t seen him at all this spring. I am not sure if he moved away or his health declined, but it has now been months since I have seen him. For all the times that he blessed my day with his smile and wave, I never thanked him. I never stopped to tell him what his friendliness meant to me.
Please, don’t let the worry of embarrassment stop you from thanking people who make a difference in your life. Don’t miss the chance to say “Thank you.” I pray that someday I will see this man again. Maybe I will run into him on one of my walks or perhaps someone will share this post with someone who will share it with someone connected to him. But until then I will remember the lesson of taking the opportunity when I have it.
“Silent gratitude isn’t much use to anyone.” – G.B. Stern