smile-faceSitting upright in my hospital bed, it had been a long night, I had woken around 3am for the toilet, I did what I often did and stood up too quick for my body to manage, usually I sit down again but this time I steadied myself against the wall. The dizziness didn’t go away, it got worse the next thing I knew I was on the floor flat out, I don’t know how long I had been there, but I think a while.

The nurse came to my rescue and helped me back to bed, that was the first time i’d actually lost consciousness through one of my many standing too quick episodes, I was lucky I was not hurt from my fall, I guess I knew it was going to happen and raised my head to avoid a big bang, a tell tale sore neck adds weight to it.

As I look to the door of my single side room, I see an elderly lady waiting for someone to push her to wherever it was she was going. She looked at me and said ‘you’re lucky’, I smiled, my immediate thought was, yes I am lucky, after a fleeting moment I got to thinking, I wondered how she knew or supposed I am lucky, so I gently confirmed she was right, I went on to ask her why she thought I was lucky.

Her reply reminded and confirmed to me what I do actually believe that I am indeed lucky, but I learned how others may perceive that, it is a lesson to me, I am pleasantly surprised at learning something new in the most surprising and fleeting of encounters.

What she said has inspired me to write these words. She went on to say that at a glance she could see that the intravenous drip in my left hand, the cotton wool balls covering 3 previous injection sites and my slightly swollen face meant I was unwell and yet I had a smile for a stranger, she said that was why i’m lucky.

I guess I sometimes take my smile for granted, though its often commented on, I rarely get told i’m handsome, and actually I strive to be more attractive from the inside rather than the exterior. I wasn’t really aware of what a smile portrays to others, especially the people we come into contact with for that fleeting moment, how many times that must happen to all of us during our everyday lives.

Sometimes when we’re not in the place we want to be, with the people or person we want to be with, we may be excused for not smiling, but as I always say a smile is infectious and connects us to others, even if for the briefest of moments. 

I remember sitting on the cliff edge near my home in Cyprus and saying to a very close friend as we watched the waves breaking somewhat romantically, where those waves now breaking before our eyes actually began their journey. I am reminded of that as I now wonder how far my innocuous smile at the lady at my hospital door and her smile back at me will travel. 

Writing it down somehow makes it last, the spoken word or memory is no competition for our thoughts and feelings written. 

My smile and hers back at me will journey through the day, maybe it won’t break for a very long time. A smile carries with it several things: compassion, a wanting to connect  and maybe a human need to do so. We avoid the stern looks when we see them don’t we, but a smile is like an invitation into another’s world.

I am lucky and I know it.

Paul Parkin

1st May 2014