Wednesday, January 05, 2011


It was a rainy, humid day: the mother of all bad hair days.
I was riding on a bus downtown to go to work. The windows
on the bus were covered in condensation so thick you
couldn’t see outside. Everyone was wilting. I was sitting next
to a man in a business suit and didn’t pay much attention
until we both got off at the same stop and walked to the same
newsstand to get a morning paper.

The man running the stand was obviously having a bad
day. He was rude, abrupt and unsmiling as we purchased our
papers, which served only to add more gloom to my day. The
businessman caught my eye and smiled. He then proceeded to
smile brightly, thank the newsstand proprietor for the paper
and for being open on such a morning to make sure we were
able to get our papers. In short, he expressed his appreciation
for something most of us would take for granted.

The man running the newsstand responded only with a
grunt and a sour expression. The businessman then pleasantly
wished him a good day. As we turned away, I asked this
man why he had continued to be pleasant to the newsman
when he obviously didn’t care about and didn’t respond to his
expression of appreciation and friendliness. The businessman
grinned at me and said, “Why would I let someone else control
what I say and what I feel or what kind of day I’m going
to have?”

We then separated to go to our respective work places. To
this day, I don’t know who that businessman was, where he
worked, or anything else about him. I never saw him again,
even though I looked for him on the bus on other days. He
appeared briefly in my life and disappeared just as quickly. I
don’t even remember what he looked like. But I’ve never forgotten
the words he said or the way his smile seemed like a
shaft of sunlight on a gloomy day. That was a good 25 years
ago, but the impact it had on my life has endured. I never had
a chance to thank him personally, but the way I choose to
look at life as a result of those words is his legacy to me and
my thanks to him.

Our interaction with someone we encounter can impact at
least the next five people that person encounters. A smile
and words of simple appreciation multiply themselves geometrically.
We cannot control people and situations that
come to us, but we can always control our response to them.
And in such positive decisions lie our control and personal
power to make a positive difference. It’s something anyone
and everyone can do. It is a real legacy that can impact both
the present and the future.

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