A little Smile
(A Harmless Reminder)
It was a hot day in New York City - Unusually very hot by New York standard. The authorities were calling for caution in the use of energy to avoid a blackout. Cooling centers were set up to help people deal with the excessive heat. Amidst the concern, on a merry side, children played by the water hydrants and soaked themselves with splashing water to cool themselves. Recently, I had read in one of the dailies that children playing with water hydrants during the summer is a “cultural” thing handed down from many generations before. It is not a waste of water as many of us who did not grow up here may think. On the sad end, a few deaths have been reported as a result of the heat wave traveling across North America and beyond.
It was a case of mixed appreciation depending on who is involved. While some people jumped on the opportunity to wear scanty clothes and expose themselves with the excuse that the weather is too hot, others wanted the wave to quickly pass so they would enjoy a more soothing mild summer weather. Some others who were born and raised in tropical environments had little to complain for they did not find it unusual. In fact many of such always preferred the heat to the cold winter.
One of those Days
So, it was one of those days and I was one of those in the office working in the cool temperature of the office building. Of course, I was one of those who would not complain about the heat due to my “tropical blood,” but it felt good working with the temperature so cool compared to what was the case outside the building. However, the cool nature of the office seemed to have attracted many who not only wanted to attend their hearings but also wanted to enjoy the cool temperature in the office building. Generally speaking, attendance was high. So in about three hours, I had seen over twenty people and counting. Honestly, I was sort of exhausted but I had to put up a bright face. I tried to wear a smile but it disappeared once my mind went to the matters before me. The heart wanted to keep smiling but the body was weak.
Unusual Moments And The Defense of The Ego
Then I had the file of a lady before me and I went straight to the issues barely remembering to look at her in the face. I had little strength for pleasantries - just get on with the job and finish with it. Then out of nowhere the lady asked me to smile. At first I pretended not to hear her. Instead my mind was wondering why she would go beyond the official cloak between us and ask me to do such a personal thing as smile, but even then, I was too tired to think it through. I was going to use the little strength I had left to complete the hearing. I went back to saying what I was saying - something about the official issue before me. But then the lady repeated herself. Again, I tried to pretend not to hear her but deep inside I knew she was right and she had caught me off-guard. How could I tell her that I try to smile as much as possible and that she had caught me in an unusual moment when over twenty different people with different issues to deal with have almost sapped me of my resolve to always smile?
Like she had planned it out, the lady started addressing the official issue before us and I thought I was off the hook but then midway in her address, she went back to the smile topic. “You know, it is very hot out there so those of you enjoying the “AC” in places like this, should at least smile to cheer us up when we come in.” Wow! At first my “ego” wanted to step in and give such responses like “look lady, I have been working all day, and I am tired.” “You do not know how difficult it is to deal with over twenty people with different troubles in just three hours.” But then I remembered an old theory of loving whatever I do so I could be the best I can. I remembered that I have always said to myself that anytime I was tempted to complain about a task or job, then I am through with that task or job and should seek something else to do. Just in that moment, my ego gave way to the realization that beneath my official cloak is a human being who could be fallible. I knew she was right.
A Little Concession And Another Good Day
Without forcing it, I found myself conceding and smiling. Whether it was at her, at her statement, or at myself, I wasn’t sure but her face lit up and I found myself saying in a nice way – “are you happy now?” Her smile broadened and she gladly said, “Yes I am.” I knew she meant it and I also realized then that the smile meant a lot to her. Interestingly, I was happy about it too. I looked up and realized that many others in the room have been observing what was going on. As my face turned at them, they were all smiling in return. I moved on with the proceedings happy that I did not make a fool of myself before all those observers. But beyond that I realized how good I felt and how much strength I had gained by that momentary experience. It overcame my exhaustion and filled me with a lightness that took me through the rest of the day. Another good day for all of us.
Challenging Situations and The Gift of Remedies
Many times in life we are faced with challenging situations that take away our commitment to be the best we can. We forget some positive promise or resolution we may have made. It could be for a moment, a day, a month or years, but the bottom line is that the situation makes us forget who we are or some positive thing we have promised to be doing. Yet Life being so kind, brings us to the spot where we are reminded of who we are and given the chance to express the divinity in us. Through these reminders, we are given the chance to remedy such challenging situations. Sometimes these reminders are shrouded in the little things we encounter or in the casual statements of casual characters we casually meet. At other times, they are laid bare before us through persons very close or commonly around us.
Many times we take for granted these persons and situations that serve as instruments for these reminders. Consequently, we fail to note these reminders. Even when we note such reminders, our egos could jump ahead of us and prejudicially judge the situation from the surface. We dwell on the frivolities and we think it is insulting or degrading for us to do that which is only an expression of our humble divine nature. We refuse to bulge from our positions of pride and authority and we refuse to compromise even when such a little concession would make all the difference in the world. And by so doing we unconsciously extend the difficult situation not knowing that our momentary ego-triumph is only a postponement of that which we think we are running from.
Yet Life knows better. It kindly comes around again in another guise and in another situation to present us with yet another chance sometimes as ordinary as a simple smile. I am still learning.
©Oliver O. Mbamara,
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Oliver Mbamara is an Administrative Law Judge with the State of New York.
He is also a filmmaker and a Published Poet and playwright. For more on Oliver, please visit
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