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Defining Moments

Years ago, in my old life when I worked as a freelance court reporter on the road,

I had an encounter with a language interpreter in a waiting room. We didn’t know each other. We knew how to be pleasant and polite, and we started talking. One thing led to another, talking about the meaning of little things, and that led to a story she shared with me.

"I was watering my flower garden in the early evening and I looked down. There near my feet was a small puddle and lots of snails nearby. Many times, I have seen people just crush snails in their shells because they represent destruction to their garden plants. With that in mind, I noticed a tiny snail about the size of my pinky fingernail. It's moving slowly towards the puddle. Wow, it’s a baby, I think. Just as I noticed that micro snail, a larger snail approached it. I called out to my daughter to come see this small snail. As we’re both looking at the snails, we realized the tiny snail is now on the back of the larger snail. How odd, I thought. How did that happen?
"No longer were the two joined snails at the edge of the puddle, but they were heading back towards the dirt in the garden. Now we were engrossed in this rescue and were watching with deep concentration. Once the larger snail reached the garden, there the tiny snail crawled off and climbed onto a leaf."

Back to safety? Is that what just happened? Was it a parent snail taking care of a baby snail? That means there is intelligence and feeling within the snail community. That means every time someone steps on a snail they are destroying a relative of another snail. What an eye-opening realization that snails have feelings. Snails have to eat too, and they reproduce just like we do. Think before you step on a snail the next time one is near you. Awareness of all life opens our hearts.

So, thank you, Marti, for sharing from your heart. This day marked a moment for me finding another heart in the corporate world. Your story your words your experience lives on in my heart and I pass it on to others. The power of sharing. The power of awareness. The power of helping. The power of love.

I was given a smile the other day From someone who passed me on their way. I wasn't sure what I should do. Perhaps, I'll leave it up to you. If I should keep it for myself, Put it on the kitchen shelf. Then it would be a certainty To bring some happiness to me. Somehow that doesn't feel just right For me to keep it in my sight When there were others who might need A waft of warmth, oh yes indeed. It doesn't take so very much, A cheerful smile, a gentle touch, To lift the cloud another bears, To help them feel somebody cares. There is one thing we all should know. A smile is like the candle's glow. No matter how many candles share That light, its fullness still is there. So when I go out on the street, No matter whom I chance to meet, If I share with them my precious smile, Do you think that will be worthwhile? For hopefully, they too, will understand That a smile is like a helping hand. I'm hoping that you will agree And someday share a smile with me.

Participants' Reflections:

  • Thank you. You brought up a memory for me. I was at a train station waiting. A homeless woman came in, wearing a flowery dress, combat boots, missing a tooth. But she had this incredible smile. She danced and pirouetted and lit up the room. Everyone was watching her. She and I made eye contact as she danced even more. Then she danced her way into the men’s room which caused great consternation. The suits came down and yelled at her and said they’d call the police. A janitor, watching the whole thing, went into the men’s room, smiled at her, and he bowed. He took her arm and said, ‘should we go now?’ And they waltzed right out. So the value of a smile. It stayed with me for years.

  • I loved that story. Thank you. During my contemplation, I was thinking what is it about a smile that feels so good to give or get. It’s like the outward sign of our love inside. Can we share our love without a smile? I tried sending my core light out without a smile. It’s very difficult. We automatically want to smile. Then I had an image of me being like a spray bottle that, when I see people and I smile, it’s like spraying them with a bit of my love. Just kind of whimsy. That’s what it is. A smile is like sending love.

  • Thank you. That was incredibly rich. During the meditation, I thought back to incidents in my experience. What came from them was experiences of love and oneness. Then I’d go back to my breathing, to my heart. What came to me in the end was how much pressure my mind was putting on my heart. The fear, the feelings around Covid, how it’s changed us. It’s a heaviness. So I just started sending my heart gentleness as I was breathing. That was quite a revelation. Hopefully, my heart will be a little softer today.

  • I have noticed, since we’ve been wearing masks, the difficulty of trying to smile at someone. I realize how much I communicate with my smile. Recently, in a grocery store, a young man came a little closer to me than either of us felt comfortable. I smiled at him and was trying to say I’m fine. He caught up with me and apologized and said I looked really mad. I told him, no, I smiled at you. It made me realize how much we communicate without saying a word. I miss that connection with people.

  • One of the things I wanted to say was my sister told me to add whimsical things to my life because they would make me smile. It’s one of the reasons I have a gingerbread ornament collection. The gingerbread men and women I choose are smiling. You can’t help smile just looking at them. It gives me a lift when I smile even though I don’t feel like smiling. Once those corners are turned up, one feels better. Act as if you’re happy and you’ll feel better.

  • Thank you for the reading. I’ve seen you pick up snails to get them out of harm’s way. As for communication, I think verbal communication accounts for only about 20%. The rest of communication is conveyed through body language and tone. So masks are definitely impeding communication. There’s a book by Paul Ekman called Emotions Revealed and he talks about smiles. He analyzed all these different emotions and identified which facial muscles are used to express each of them. He found that a true smile includes our mouths, eyes, and other parts of our faces. What was interesting was that he also found that if you just place your face into the appearance of an emotion, you will feel that emotion. One wonders whether we feel happy because we are smiling or are we smiling because we feel happy. But it’s scientifically true, you’ll feel better if you smile.

  • Thank you very much. I wanted to touch on what you said about the snails. I was brought up to step on things that didn’t serve us. I’ve been around people who step on snails and kill them. I was in my teens when I decided that wasn’t right, but it was what I was taught. When I don’t do that, I smile more. If I do take actions like that, it hurts me. If I take loving actions, I have a more natural smile that comes forth. You talked about the baby snail and the safety. Thank you.

  • It is amazing how you hit these things. We have a very real snail dilemma going on in our household right now. My daughter rescued a glass container with three snails from a smoking household. The snails weren’t reproducing, for four years. My daughter put them into a beautiful terrarium and has been watching them. Now, they have mated and produced at least 50 baby snails. My daughter is distracted by watching the baby snails, their interactions. We know she can’t release them into the wild. We have a dilemma regarding what to do with these lifeforms. Exponential growth will be an issue. What came to me during the meditation was trying to connect to the spirits of the snails and ask them what to do.

  • When you talked about stepping on the snails, I believe we humans think we are superior to animals. All the animals have feelings and smiles. That’s a given. I like the idea of communicating with the snails. It is so pervasive in our culture to do away with animals, no matter how big or small, is inconveniencing us. But it’s their environment. We are the invaders of their environment. We need to respect them. I had June bugs at my old house and they’d wind up on their backs, legs flailing. I don’t want to feel like that. I’d turn them back over.

  • Thank you so much. Thank you for your stories. We’re all going to smile a lot more today thinking back on what everyone said. One thing I sorely miss is going to group gatherings where everyone is smiling. It felt so good. We don’t smile much these days. I feel like my smile muscles aren’t being used much. So sometimes when I’m driving, I make all these big faces of smiles and it really feels much better. It makes me smile. Thank you.

  • I’ve read several places that it takes fewer muscles to smile than to frown. I keep that in my mind when I’m not happy.

  • I’ve done guided meditations where I am guided to smile. It feels almost illegal because I’m not smiling at something or at someone. I’m just smiling. But when I do, it gives me a different feeling. So it is something to play with.

  • Thank you. Thank you for sharing this time. Thank you for your reflections, such incredible experiences and thoughts. The power of community. I wish you all a day of awareness noticing what’s around us and the little miracles and the gentle smiles of things that don’t have faces but they are smiling. Let us go and share them.

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