What I Look For In The Morning

Every time I go to a new town, I do the same thing. I walk it. Ideally in the morning. Yes, it's a good way to learn the landscape. But for me, it's about learning the people of the landscape.

In DC, there are Senators hidden beneath their hometown baseball caps. In Delhi, there are small groups of men squatting around their favorite chai stands. In Colby, Kansas, there are farmers drinking coffee in their tractor cabs.

It's just a little piece of their morning life that happened to overlap with mine.

But no matter where I am, I'm looking for the same thing: the smile. And there's a whole spectrum of them.

There's the mouth-just-barely-turned-up, eyebrows-half-raised, I'd-rather-not-be-doing-this-but-we've-already-made-eye-contact smile. Which is more of a favor than a smile.

There's the barely audible, 'Hi,' accompanied by a nod and vague upward movement of the lips.

There's the affable but aloof smile where the mouth stays closed.

Then there's this: The unguarded, unqualified, unabashed, it's-great-to-see-you-whoever-you-are-wherever-you-came-from smile. It's less of a smile and more of a wind gust at your back.

And I soften a bit. Because I'd forgotten we can do that with a smile. We can grab hold of the few seconds our lives overlap and shoot them through with compassion. We can close the space between two people on one morning. And we can live out Martin Luther King, Jr.'s reminder:

"We may have come on different ships, but we're in the same boat now."

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BelongingCaitie Whelan