bumping into strangers

Posted on Friday, May 3, 2013

When we are in pain – physical or emotional – it’s often hard to laugh.  I injured my back at the gym back in October and it’s still giving me a lot of trouble.  At first I thought it was a usual one-week recovery, but weeks have turned into months and now this once mildly annoying injury is turning into anger and sadness.

I went to a physical therapist the other day and was offered some helpful core and glute exercises.  Before heading home, I bumped into an elderly woman in the restroom who needed help getting the paper towels.  I turned and pulled the awkward contraption and finally got some paper out.  As we said our goodbyes this stranger, appreciative of the help, nonchalantly turned her face toward me, “Keep smiling,” she said.  I turned around and told her how much I needed to hear that.


 Smile and laugh everyday.


I thought to myself, where did this little angel come from?  What if I hadn’t slowed down and helped her dry her hands?  Although I was the one who thought I was helping, she in fact encouraged me.  We chatted for a few moments and my new mysterious friend told me she loves a form of yoga called laughter yoga, which involves self-triggered laughter, something I’ve always wanted to try.  I immediately thought of excuses as to why I can’t do it, and then realized, it actually doesn’t take much just to start laughing.  It’s easy, I know how to do it, and it’s free.  My face must have given away these thoughts.  She smiled,


Just wake up and start laughing. And you know what, when someone cuts you off when you’re driving, just start laughing.  If they think you’re crazy, they’ll leave you alone.


We laughed together and then parted ways, both of us leaving a bit warmer and lighter.  I got into my car and drove home, for the first time, eager for someone to cut me off.  I can’t remember if anyone did – instead I found myself driving all the way home still smiling.


behind the scenes

This was piece I originally wrote for a reading on the radio.


feature image folded hands, brunei provided by Adam Hanif

from the national geographic photo of the day oct 6 2011


  1. Just as you needed that serendipitous reminder that day, I needed it today. Thank you, Jessica. Keep smiling.

    • Thank goodness for those serendipitous moments! Have a great day, Andrea.

  2. I love those special moments when two individuals suddenly connect on a deeper level, and communicate just the right thing at the right time. I think that this sudden and profound mutual understanding is what humans truly strive for at the end of the day, hence love and family. But crossing ways like that with a stranger is unique b/c it only lasts a short amount of time. We know we will never see them him/her again and yet, that moment was meant to happen. It reminds us in some strange way that we were on the right path. It used to happen to me a lot when I lived in the big city, where one meets so many people every day and energies intersect more frequently.
    Keep Smiling, Jessica.

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