I received this envelope just the other day -- at the end of a long day. I perked right up with those smileys. I started thinking about where she might have seen those decorated "O"'s and wondered who was blessing her with smileys, besides me.
Back when Patrick was in kindergarten, in 2005, I decided to travel to Sioux Falls, South Dakota for a conference for educators who believed in full inclusion in Catholic schools. It was the first time I had ever really travelled alone and I was going to a place where I knew no one. It was a whim. I felt an urgent need to affirm to myself that including Patrick in our local Catholic school where our other two older children went wasn't just a nice idea. I wanted to believe that it was happening in other places. I wanted to meet other people who felt called to this mission of actually living what we know at our very core: all kids deserve to be educated together -- no matter how hard or uncomfortable it might make the school community.
We all deserve to sit at the table.
So, there I was on an airplane journey that had a layover and a long wait in an airport. You should know this about me, and perhaps you do, I'm a talker. I love to strike up conversations with strangers. I love hearing their stories, commiserating over cold coffee or weird TSA agents or sharing the latest book I'm reading. I am comfortable making small talk, actually, I'm good at it.
So it might come as a surprise when I reveal that for two different airplane rides, one multi-hour layover in a strange giant airport not a single person made eye contact with me or made conversation with me. It was so unnerving that on the second leg of my journey I started to have real doubts about this whole thing.
It went a little like this:
"Beth, what in the world are you doing?"
"Why are you traveling all the way to South Dakota on a lark?"
"What are you thinking leaving your three small children and your husband and just going off -- this is crazy!"
Honestly, by the end of that second plane ride I had convinced myself that if my ride to the tiny (yet gorgeous) retreat center way out in the boondocks of rural Irene, South Dakota looked at all suspicious I would just pack it all in and declare failure.
Off the plane I went searching for my ride and there he was: an older man with a kind smile holding a sign. All it said was Welcome -- NICE Conference. And in the center of those two letter "O"'s were, you guessed, the smiley face. It sounds funny now but as soon as I saw those smileys I knew I was in the right place. I knew I was with the right people and I knew it was going to be a worthwhile adventure.
All it took was that international symbol of goodwill and welcome. The sunny smiley. :)
Seeing how the world is right now with outrageous hatred toward others of different cultures or faiths or classes I want to start a worldwide smiley revolution.
I'm not trying to be trite or trivial.
Can you imagine how powerful it would be if we all just held up signs that said "Welcome" with a smiley in the center? How sinister can we be if we hold up signs that say "love" with a smiley tucked in there...how about the powerful "Thank you"?
I believe we could change the world with a smiley revolution. If every single person received a smiley, regardless of status or age or wealth or race, we could change a worldwide mood of hostility and simmering anger to one of care and inclusion.
Hey...how about the word "inclusion" holding that smiley too???
Yep, we all deserve to be here. We all deserve a smiley and while we're at it, let's throw in a heart or two. It can't hurt and it just might help.
Your job today: pass out 10 smileys and 5 hearts to those you love.
Tomorrow pass out the same amount to strangers.
The next day: try to pass them out to those who you'd rather not give them to, those who bug you, get under your skin or make you creep out.
Imagine the ripple.