I am convinced that we have met the best people everywhere we’ve gone. And at the same time – I know that there are hundreds, thousands, millions more just like them that are in every community, helping their neighbors, serving with kindness, and loving everyone they meet.
A lot of this trip has been focused on the intangible ways we can share our gifts with others – a simple smile, organizing a food drive, and so on and so on. But there’s also something about tangibly sharing something with someone else.
We noticed that in every person that opened their home to us, in every person that made us meals or packed us a lunch, in every person who gave us a book because they heard we were big readers, in every person who introduced us to their friends and families and shared the mission of The Smile Project.
We were saying goodbye to our hosts in Midland, Texas and refilling our two reusable water bottles for the road when I was lamenting about how I had a lovely blue NYC Park water bottle that I lost early on in one of the Carolinas and I was heartbroken about it. Without missing a beat, she handed me a clean reusable straw cup and told me to take it.
From day one, this trip has consisted of people taking care of us and for that I am eternally grateful. I could write a novel about the kindness of our new cross country friends, but it is perhaps easiest to share one particular story.
In Spokane, Washington, we stayed with a friend of my friends, someone we hadn’t met or known previously. We met her daughter – perhaps a few years younger than us – and then she returned to her bedroom while we stayed up and visited with her mother and the dogs.
The girl’s mother had mentioned that her daughter was at times quiet or shy but very interested in animals and writing. I immediately saw myself in her. We chatted for hours before we finally went to bed.
The next morning as we were routinely filling our water bottles and packing the car, the daughter came out of her bedroom and handed us each a necklace. She told us she thought what we were doing was really cool and inspiring and she made the necklaces last night in her room while we had all been chatting away in the family room. She said she knew it wasn’t much, but she wanted to give us something for the trip.
The necklace is so much more than a necklace. It’s tangible evidence of someone using their talents and time to make someone smile. I was – and remain still – so touched by the necklace and the effort and the kindness that she – and everyone on this trip – has shown us.
Never underestimate your gifts. You may not think it’s anything special – but to the receiver, that just might mean the world.