It’s been a while since I had this uplifting and joyful feeling, from doing something as simple as SMILING.
I am a very friendly person. I am not shy. I have no qualms approaching people or talking to strangers when necessary. I don’t hesitate striking a conversation.
Often, friends ask, “You know him (or her)?” And I say, “No”. And they give me this incredulous look.
I smile a lot. I smile at practically every person I meet. And I say “Hi” or “Hello”.
After having lived in California for a number of years and returning to my country of origin, the Philippines, that habit started to fade into the background. And I’m not particularly happy or proud about it.
If Filipinos are one of the most hospitable and friendliest people, then how come…
The Filipinos are known around the globe as one of the most hospitable and friendliest people. No offense to my countrymen, but this perception is quite misleading. Filipinos are much friendlier to foreigners, than to their fellow countrymen.
It was a behavior that I had difficulty readjusting to, together with the many other quirks of the Filipino people, when I came back in 2010.
When you’re a free spirit and couldn’t care much about what other people think or say, and you find yourself in a place where the way of life is the opposite, it could be a culture shock. It could also be quite draining, energetically. Especially for someone like me who is highly sensitive to energies.
In the beginning, I would continue my friendly gesture and smile at everyone. And then I started to remember that respecting personal boundaries is a lesson that the Filipino people are still mastering. Or that the Filipino definition of personal space and boundary is just very different from other cultures.
Because while I have no other intention when I’m smiling other than to offer a greeting, other people misinterpret this gesture, put a meaning to it, and some think they’re now my BFF! 🙂 Or, that I’m hitting on them! 🙂 Please note that I’m speaking in general. I’m not saying ALL Filipinos are this way. I’m only talking about the majority.
So in general, and for the most part, whenever I smile, what I’d get is this look of mistrust, or a strange look that makes me feel like I’m weird or there’s something wrong with me, or I may be up to something dangerous.
Yet if you’re a foreigner, the reaction that you’d get is so different. For the Filipino, as a foreigner, you earn the right to be friendly, and to greet and smile at strangers. It’s acceptable. Sometimes even expected. But not when you’re a Filipino.
So from being uncomfortable with the gesture, to not being used to it, to being clueless on how to respond, to believing that it’s my prelude to a pick-up line, or an invitation for us to spill out our guts, the majority of the Filipinos just simply seldom smile back.
For a while I felt discouraged. I felt rejected. And when I finally got tired and drained from giving and giving my smile and not getting anything in return, I started smiling less and less, unknowingly, until I found myself acting like the rest of them, without me even realizing it! Up until the other day….
A rare “Good morning!”
As I entered our building elevator, a man inside the elevator greeted me, “Good morning!”
I was surprised, almost shocked! I could count with one hand the number of times someone did this to me or greeted me and beat me to the punch. At that moment, I realized how I have become like the rest who would enter the elevator, not mindful of the people inside, not offering any gesture of greeting, not a hello or hi, no good morning/afternoon/evening, not even a nod.
I told him, “It’s so refreshing to hear someone greet me. It’s been a while, thank you!” He had this charming smile on his face. He extended his hand for a handshake, introduced himself, and said, “Oh, you mean, we live in this community yet we’re not even friendly to each other?” No, he wasn’t hitting on me. I even think he’s gay — one can never be too sure nowadays, although he was quite good-looking. But that doesn’t matter, and I’m digressing, and that’s not my point. What matters is, someone gave me a smile, greeted me, AND HE IS A FILIPINO!
Suddenly, as I stepped out of the elevator and for the rest of the day, I felt something in me shifted. It’s been a while since I felt this joyful and had this vitality, all because of a simple greeting and a smile.
A reminder from the Season for Nonviolence
The Daily Reflection for today from the Season for Nonviolence about SMILING was a very timely reminder for me. It rerouted me back on my track.
The giving ends in the giving.
A smile is a gift that’s being offered. Whoever wants to take it and receive it will be blessed.
People may not be comfortable with being smiled at by strangers, or they may not know how to deal with such a gesture, or they simply don’t know that it’s a gift that’s being offered, and they just don’t know how to receive it. But that’s not enough reason for me to stop smiling completely, to stop being friendly, or even stop being who I am.
And so beginning this Season of Nonviolence, here is my commitment and intention:
I intend to smile even when there is no one
I intend to smile even if all my hair and teeth are gone
I intend to smile even if I’m old and grey
I intend to smile at anyone, straight or gay
Yet, I also know that there will still be moments when I’d forget to smile.
But I trust and I know that the Universe will once again send someone who will greet me and smile at me, and remind me of the gift of a smile.
Who knows, next time, not only will he be good-looking, he will be a straight, single guy, who might even be actually hitting on me! And that is certainly something to smile about!
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