Currently I have three small neon smiley face stickers on my shoes. They were put there by my niece a couple weeks ago. She came up to me, sticker sheet in hand, and in her sing songy sweet voice asked if I’d like a sticker. Naturally, I replied in the affirmative and told her she could put one on my shoe. She looked at me and giggled a bit as she added a sticker to my shoe. Then she continued to giggle (I joined her of course, her giggle is contagious) as she added two more. Looking up at me she said, “Isn’t this silly Aunt Sarah?” (Actually, I think her exact words were, "Isn't this siwy Aunt Sawah?") I’ve yet to remove the stickers because they are little remnants of my time with her. They make me smile.
It is the same when she comes to visit, leaving little traces of herself around my house. I’ve found stickers on the piano, old valentine cards on the table, a pale pink wash cloth left to dry in the bathroom, a pink lego block under the ottoman in the den, a bit of washable marker on the table cloth in the kitchen, and countless creations of rocks, dirt, twigs, and bugs on my back deck. She leaves little remnants of herself everywhere and I love it. Though I eventually pick them up, I’m prone to let them linger where they are for a bit since they remind me of her. That reminder inevitably makes me smile.
As I looked down at my neon stickers the other day and considered how these little remnants of my niece made me happy, I began to wonder what kind of remnants do I leave in other people’s lives. What lingering effect does my being with them have? Is there something positive I can leave behind that will continue to impact them after I’m gone?
I don’t have plans to intentionally forget belongings when I visit a friend’s home or to leave behind a mess at the office. What is cute for a 3 year old to do, would be annoying when carried out by a 35 year old. But I’ve been challenged to consider this: Do I leave behind kind words, gestures, and memories that make others smile? I sure hope so. Or does my time with them leave them unsettled, unappreciated, or un-impacted. I sure hope not, but I’m afraid that is sometimes true.
I began to consider ways we can leave behind positive remnants for those in our lives. Why not randomly leave a note of thanks in a co-workers office? Why not send a friend an email of encouragement or a simple “I’m praying” during a rough week? Why not point out something good or beautiful you see in another person, right then and there? Why not actually pick up the phone when a dear friend comes to mind, and if no one answers leave a message letting them know you were thinking of them?
There are even simpler things we can do. Pop in a co-workers office and thank them for something they did, even if it is in their job description to do it. Share random and happy thoughts with friends throughout the week, instead of just rushing to them when you need to vent. Actually make eye contact and smile when you say thank you to the person who held the door for you. Offer a “good morning” and maybe even a “how’s your day?” to the stranger in the elevator instead of riding in awkward silence. Crack a joke to ease the tension in a long, slow check out line. Look up from your meal and deliberately thank a waiter for good service. Make eye contact and say “have a good day” to the cashier instead of waiting for them to say it first. I’m realizing more and more that eye contact and a smile can really make someone’s day. We are taking the time to look up from our busy lives and see them, to connect with them. In and of itself that is affirming.
None of this is rocket science and some of it is common courtesy that our parents taught us but we’ve long since forgotten. But the fact remains, whatever little things we choose to do, we daily have the ability to impact someone’s life for the better. We can leave remnants of joy, sincerity, hope, peace, friendship, and humor behind. We have an opportunity to affirm their worth, encourage a positive outlook, and remind them life is good and people care. Why not leave behind some remnants?
As for the stickers, they’ll remain on my shoes a bit longer. When I look at them I can still see my niece’s curly headed, bright eyed face looking up at me, sticker sheet clutched in her chubby little hand. I can still hear her giggle. And it is still contagious.