Stories of Kindness from Around the World

Spreading Smiles in Calcutta

--by Pavi, posted Jun 15, 2006
I was catching a flight from Calcutta to Madras and had arrived at the airport rather early. Have always thought of airports as rather happy places- everyone at the beginning or the end of a journey- or both- such a sense of adventure in the air- and warmth- because people travel to see people and you know as you look around that that's someone's daughtersonhusbandwifefriendgrandmotheruncle
cousinnephewhathaveyou and someone on the other end is going to be So Very Glad to see them.

So until I saw the young couple sitting a few seats away from me, and noticed that the woman was crying-I'd never stopped to think that though airports are places of Adventurous Arrival they can also be about Difficult Departure. The young woman was crying, the young man was- not. He looked distinctly connected to her and decidedly uncomforting (and yes that is judgemental of me but so be it) I kept waiting in an out-of-the-corner-of-my-eye sort of a way for him to do Something Soothing. But he didn't. So after a certain amount of indecision and hesitation I walked over with a Smile Stone (a small marble with a smile drawn on it with a permanent black marble) in my hand and said, "Excuse me- can I give this to you?" And I held out a the skyblue Smile Stones. Tearsmeared puzzled eyes. "Why?" she wanted to know. "To make you smile." She took it quickly and flashed me a quick, faltering, touched-by-gratitude smile- and then I walked quickly away because there wasn't really anything more to say.

Later as my bag was going through the security check a uniformed, unsmiling young lady hauled my backpack onto a side table and started unceremoniously unzipping its various sections and rifling through the contents in the impersonal, mildly agressive manner that airport security staff sometimes have. When she dipped her hand into the front
pocket she came up with a fistful of smile stones- they grinned up at her cheerfully and on her face came a look of priceless bewilderment swiftly followed by an involuntary smile :-) The whole tenor of her interaction with my backpack and with me shifted in that second. As she carefully zipped up my bag I pulled out one of the smile stones- a pale green one with a particularly friendly face. This is for you I said- to remind you to Keep Smiling. She took it eagerly and then hesitated for a moment- We're not supposed to take anything from anyone- she said in Tamil (as it turned out she was from South India) - and then her voice trailed away as she grinned down at the face grinning up at her. Then- But this is Okay- she said and slipped it into her pocket.

A smuggled smile stone snuggled into the bottom of her security check uniform because sometimes it really is okay to bend the rules :-)
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Readers Comments

Rajni wrote: Your story proved that smiles are more powerful than rules. You did a wonderful job of spreading smiles in calcutta
mmloomis wrote: I cry every time i am on the plane when heading home after visiting my grandparents, as it always crosses my mind that it could be the last time i see them. I see them every few years and have always thought this since i was 15, but i'm nearly 30 now and they are still alive and well! Anyhow, my husband now knows that nothing is wrong and that in a few minutes i'll have my good-cry and know everything is fine (when he consoles me, the first couple of times he flew with me to visit my grandparents, it made me cry longer - so i've told him to just let me have 5 minutes and if i'm still crying then to ask me what is wrong, haha! ) anyhow, whether that man was like my husband or not - i know i would have loved your gesture and that woman did too.
AnnieJ wrote: Awesome! I'm sure that woman who was crying was touched by your kindness - who else might have noticed?

Also, i'm digging the idea of smile stones! Did you make them yourself?
sethi wrote: Thank you for being who you were.

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