Smiles are Apolitical.

September 14, 2020

Smiles are Apolitical.

May 29, 2023

Yesterday, on my way out to a 10+ mile walk around Lady Bird Lake, I shared the 25-floor elevator ride down with a neighbor I’d never seen before who I think lives in one of the penthouses. I was wearing a mask and a Golden Gate Bridge t-shirt. He donned no mask and a bit of a scowl.

I asked where I could mail a letter and casually held it up. He saw that it was addressed to the Texas Secretary of State and asked if I was from California. And, before I could answer as we were now on the first floor, he chided me with a “Don’t Californicate Texas!”

That gave me something to ponder on my walk. I came back for a swim and saw another neighbor sitting on a lounge chair enjoying the view. We smiled at each other as we were more than six feet apart and outdoors.

We struck up a hearty conversation, both of us smiling from ear to ear. He was a relatively new transplant to Austin as well. I told him about my experience in the elevator earlier that morning which led us to the natural progression of a political discussion. Turns out we had very little in common politically, but somehow - maybe because our new relationship started with some broad-brimmed smiles - we found a way to disagree, seriously listen to each other, and still be civil.

Masks may save lives, but they also hide smiles. They put extra pressure on our eyes to express a smile, but doing that in a small elevator with another man can be taken the wrong way.

Our most dangerous “ism” these days might be “Dogmatism.” But, this ain’t no purebred Dog given the strange facts bandied about in the media. So, maybe we’re afflicted with “Muttmatism.”

All I know is I dialed up a Tara Brach podcast (here) on my lakeside walk that offers a smiling meditation. And, because I was outdoors and safely distanced during my two and a half hour walk, more than a couple hundred fellow Texans, of all political stripes, received a gift of a smile from me along the way and almost everyone of them returned the gift.

When in doubt, smile even if you’re wearing a mask. It might not change the other person’s mood, but it’ll lovingly protect you from anything they throw your way.

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