Although it takes a very perceptive person to notice, I am very shy, so when people look in my direction, my first impulse is to hide, which is most easily accomplished by looking away.
But I know that if I shyly look away when someone looks in my direction, it can be misinterpreted as a kind of rejection. Maybe most people might think nothing of it, but I am acutely aware of those nuances. So I look back and smile. Looking back takes a bit of effort—after all, rejection can flow in two ways, and perhaps that person will frown at me—but the smile doesn’t take any effort at all.
As part of looking back, I find that I notice something nice about just about everyone I look at. Sure, there are those few people who raise my internal alarms, but most people radiate a kind of wholesomeness, a likability, that feels good to see. I would miss that if I allowed myself to look away.
I also believe that even when no words are exchanged, whatever my thoughts and reactions are to others—really, whatever any one of us is thinking and feeling about another—is communicated on an internal level. (This is why I have never once in her entire life lied to my daughter. But that’s another topic.) Whether we are all fully aware of that communication doesn’t matter; we receive it and respond to it. So when I look at someone and smile with genuine acceptance, they get it.
It’s a kind of spiritual practice, a reminder that we are all in this together, that we are all spiritual beings working through a sometimes very difficult life, and that whatever we can do to remind each other of that fact can help each of us find our path a little easier to walk.