There’s no way to know if she was an oldest daughter, but that’s beside the point. The face above her uniform indicated she was probably in her sixties. Her job at the crowded security area in the major metropolitan airport through which I was traveling, required her to repeatedly walk up and down the lanes to make sure the suction-bottomed lane markers remained in place. As she robotically performed her task, her face remained expressionless. I noticed her as I was inching through the lanes on my way to board a plane that would take me to a visit with friends and family.
The night before I had happened to read a story about Mother Teresa of Calcutta and her command to the Missionaries of Charity sisters who vow to give wholehearted free service to the poorest of the poor: “If you see someone without a smile, give them one of yours.”
I caught the lane-marker’s eye and smiled. She returned my smile and then,surprisingly, beckoned to me. When I reached her, she guided me around the people in my lane and outside all the lanes to a point where passengers were entering the individual TSA agent desks. In other words, she moved me to the front of the line! With a quiet instruction to “Go to the next open desk,” she left me. With my happy face in place.
The simple power of a smile? Apparently. But perhaps it was more that someone among the hundreds of people who pass by her every hour had acknowledged her presence among them.
This Memorial Day weekend, we will be appropriately encouraged to honor the memory of “the fallen,” those who have given their lives in mortal combat for us. I suggest we also take a moment to recognize those whose “standing” may cause them to be overlooked or discounted because the jobs — unheralded, tedious, necessary—that they perform for us don’t rank high in social status.
If you see someone performing a job who happens to be without a smile, I propose giving them one of yours.
Happy Memorial Day.