I have just started on a bike ride. I'm focused on the road ahead, on gear shifts, on the hill that lies ahead. Yet, my focus is pulled away from the road; it is pulled up and to the left because an energy, like a bright light, compels me to do so.
A neighbor friend, a woman who is a fitness guru, is beaming a grandiose smile. A smile I can actually feel. It contains so much energy, it was capable of distracting my focus. I couldn't hear the smile, I didn't see it. It had a force all it's own.
This smile power is a curiosity to me. I think about the thousands of times I have watched people enter classrooms, stores, restaurants, libraries, my home, and the different feelings that accompany that person depending on his or her demeanor. They have been dark clouds or sunshine and every degree of weather in between.
I think of the thousands of times I have entered a place and the instant feeling of comfort or discomfort depending on how I am greeted. My day or my momentary experience begins with the energy of one grumpy person or one happy person.
My tenth grade Biology teacher, Ms. Ruby Alderson, had the power to extinguish the hope and light out of thousands of students. And she did. It was her policy not to look at, or smile at her students for the first three days. She wouldn't even speak to us. We entered class with instructions on the board. If a student tried to break her code, she scowled. Eventually she warmed up, but I never did well in tenth grade Biology.
Mr. Nelson, the seventh grade English teacher was kind, welcoming and soft spoken. On the first day and every day after. I did well in English. I even became an English teacher.
Did I become, because of the way I was treated? Did I associate the message with the messenger? Was English pleasant and Biology not, because of the demeanor of two different people?
I try to think of my demeanor as something I carry with me, and it is as evident and influential as carrying a baby elephant on my back. I try to remember that my demeanor is a gift or a curse, with the power to affect a moment, an hour, an entire life.
My old doctor's office had a square plate sitting on the front desk with these words etched on the surface: Be kind to everyone, you never know what kind of day they've had or what burdens they carry.
Funny thing though---the receptionists were neither kind nor welcoming. Even funnier--I no longer see that doctor, and I realize, in part, that is why I love my dentist--everyone working in her office is kind and cheerful. I enter and leave feeling good---even if I'm in pain.