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To the Stranger in the Parking Lot Who Told Me to 'Smile'


Thank you, random stranger at Ingles this morning, for telling me in the parking lot as I am getting out of my van to “Smile.”

Hey. Do you know how utterly exhausted I am? That I am plagued with chronic fatigue? That my body usually does not go into the restorative stages of sleep, like most people, leaving me still wiped out when I wake? That I push through most of my days, through work and taking care of two kids, literally fighting with myself just to stay awake? And then on top of that, fighting to love my life and take it all in despite that?

Do you know that I am achy, sore and in pain? That I have fibromyalgia? That I often park far away from the store to get the little bit of exercise my doctor recommends, but that today I parked as close as possible because my legs are heavy and my back feels inflamed? That my neck is so sore? That I feel bruised in my body from head to toe? That even my back and legs touching against my seat feels like sunburnt skin being irritated? That I go through this almost every single day, and have for over eight years, if not longer?

Do you know I often do smile? That I often cover up how I feel around family and friends, or even when I am alone? That I put on the mask and do all I can to be happy, friendly? Do you know how utterly beyond exhausting that can be?

Did you know that I had a smile on early this morning, a bit of energy, a great mood, but that within just the three hours from waking to when you saw me in the parking lot, I felt as though I had just run a marathon, all energy lost, completely run down, and I still had to rush into the store, buy a few things and head into work? That later today I am going to a doctor appointment regarding medicine that doesn’t work, but that I can’t afford anyway? That I am also going over blood test results in the hopes of finding more answers to help me feel better and be healthier?

I know you meant well. I know you likely just wanted to spread some happiness. So here is my suggestion:

Just smile yourself, and say hello. You are more likely to get a smile in return that way. But don’t expect one. Just give for the sake of giving.

We never know who is on the other side of our “hello” and our “smile.” They could be full of happiness and joy…they could be full of pain and heartache. Be careful in your giving. And do just that: give.

Thank you. Maybe the encounter will help others to look further and to give as well. I hope you see this, and that it makes you smile.

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Thinkstock photo via sergeyryzhov.