I was in the deepest end of the pool, while my children threw balls and jumped with big splashes into the water. I swam back and forth, back and forth, as music played a familiar beat over loud speakers, against the echoing squeals of children having fun.
On a random night, at the local YMCA pool, I immersed in intense friendliness.
And that is what sold me on the Y.
A woman in a Muslim hijab, covered head to toe except her face, even while in the pool, smiled at me as I paused at the end of the lap lane. I smiled back. She asked me about my children. I asked about hers.
We were two mothers sharing an energetic evening, sharing stories about motherhood, about family, about happiness.
Every time I go to the Y, people smile at me.
He didn’t know me, and I didn’t know him, but I had to smile back. My entire being warmed at the prospect of such a friendly greeting. A stranger noticed me. A stranger cared enough to say hello.
It happens every time. Today, during my personal training session, a woman named Sarah got down on a mat next to mine and tried the planks and turtles we were doing. It made my struggle easier. We laughed together.
What’s your name again? she asked. I told her and we waved goodbye. Perhaps we’ll exercise together another day.
What does it take to offer kindness and greeting to a stranger? Not much.
Even when I lived in Washington, D.C., I was perplexed when drivers didn’t wave to thank you, when you let them in in traffic.
It’s the little things that make or break our days. The tiny kindnesses, seemingly insignificant, which mean so much.
Last night, I sat in the urgent care waiting room with my son while a TV blared. It was set first to Judge Judy, an episode where a mother was suing her daughter.
She complained about a fight they had and how her daughter broke a picture of Marilyn Monroe and tore it and how that upset her. Mother and daughter in court, sparring, facing off, seeking remuneration.
The fluorescent-lit courtroom saddened me. No love pulsing back or forth between mother and daughter. But I knew that the hurt was so deep to bring them to this moment and with every cutting word or hacking demand, they were severing their relationship forever more.
Then the news came on, with a breaking story about a mother who shot and killed her son because he threatened her with a piece of concrete. Next came a story about a highway accident where a car was severed in half and people died.
I asked the receptionist to change the channel. “It has to stay on this channel always,” she said.
When in reality, there is so much good.
Simple things like a visit to the Y to exercise my body and restore my mind. My soul comes along for the ride, and I realize that the world is filled with good people, with kindness, with hugs you can see in the eyes of someone who actually looks at you as they walk past.
Once, when I was hiking alone in Victoria, B.C., a couple and their daughter helped me ascend a scary ledge and then held my hand as together, we climbed down.
I didn’t know them and they didn’t know me, but I was no longer alone in the world. They helped me down from the rock. They banished my fear.
That humanity lurking in each of us needs to come out. No longer masked, nothing to be afraid of. Together, we can truly conquer the world.