Greet the Strangers You Meet With a Smile

“We are friend. I hope you happy,” said the smiling 14-year-old Chinese girl sitting next to me, who, without knowing, brightened my day with our minimal, but meaningful conversation.

When I came on the bus to head home from Dali, my head was pounding, and I thought a fever was looming in my future. To take my mind off things, I plugged into my iPod and tried to drift away with the tunes of Van Morrison. I knew the empty seat next to me wouldn’t stay like that for long, and all I hoped for was to sit next to someone who wasn’t smoking. “Can I sit here?” squeaked a sweet voice in Chinese. I look up to see a smile beaming down at me. I moved my purse, turned off my music, and we exchanged greetings in Chinese as she handed me a Chinese version of a mini Kit-Kat bar.

“Oh no, my money. No where,” she frantically said in broken English right after she sat down. The bus driver’s assistant was walking up and down the aisle, asking where everyone was going and collecting their fees along the way. My new bus mate was searching every single pocket and digging through her grocery bags that held kilos of kiwis and new magazines. The assistant reached us, but her money was no where to be found. I asked how much it was to her village and it was the equivalent to one dollar. I told her that I would pay for her and reassured her that she shouldn’t worry; her money will be found on the bus ride. Luckily, after five minutes, she found her money in her back pocket, which was the last place she looked. To show her gratitude, she thanked me with one of the kiwis that she just bought from the market.

As our bus meandered through the traffic jam caused by the trucks that were still lining up for diesel, we chatted mostly in English about her studies, my job, our villages, and what it is like to live in America. At the bottom of my purse, I found a quarter, a dime, and a penny that I must have thrown out of my wallet when trying to make room for more Chinese money. I told her about our money in America and described my hometown. Last year, I learned from my Chinese friends that keeping a crisp one dollar bill in your wallet was good luck. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a dollar for my new friend, but she was happy to keep the cool new currency, which was shimmering in her hand.

My stop was just around the corner so we quickly exchanged phone numbers and said that we should meet again soon. Waves and smiles were exchanged once again, but this time it was saying farewell. Before I stepped off the bus, she said, “We are friend. I hope you happy.”

I turned around and replied, “I am very happy! Thank you.” And with that, we parted ways. A simple smile, anywhere you are in the world, can make a great difference.

Til next time my friends.

Peace, Love, and Happiness.