No, this isn't one of those battery-powered moments (though I do treasure those). That special hour is when I crawl out of bed to throw on my wool socks and yoga pants and as many sweater layers as I can possibly don, and head out for a morning walk with my dog.
We vary our route each morning. Sometimes we walk to the park where I let her off-leash to scurry in the grass and bark until I throw sticks for her to chase. Other times we head north toward the irrigation canal, which is a lovely, flowing creek in the summer months, and a barren pit of ice and dirt this time of year.
My city isn't a huge one, but it's surprising how many people we encounter at that hour in our little corner of suburbia. Most mornings I pass two or three strangers out walking dogs, enjoying a brisk jog, or returning from a night of burgling neighborhood homes. Usually we nod hello, perhaps issue a perfunctory, "good morning" as we pass. I don't think I'd recognize any of them in a police lineup if it did turn out they burgled neighborhood homes.
The mornings are chilly this time of year, so I bought myself a new hat two weeks ago. The hat is wool, and features a large animal face complete with eyeballs, ears, a protruding nose, and an odd tuft of hair on top. I love my hat very much, and felt toasty-warm the first morning I put it on.
My dog and I set out like any other morning en route to the park. Partway there, we crossed paths with a woman wearing Lycra pants and high-tech running shoes. As we passed on the sidewalk, she laughed.
"Morning," she said, and continued on with her jog.
I didn't think much of it until we arrived at the park. I let Bindi off-leash and started my usual stroll around the wood-chip path circling the soccer field. Halfway around, we encountered a shaggy young man with a skateboard and holey jeans on the brink of sliding off his non-existent hips to reveal his shamrock boxers.
He looked at me, grinned, looked at my dog, then looked at me again. "That's a really great dog," he said.
"She is," I agreed, watching her trot obediently to my side in case Mr. Saggy Pants decided to beat me with his skateboard. She barked once, then scurried into the bushes in pursuit of an imaginary squirrel.
We continued on our way, not encountering anyone else until I stooped to re-leash my dog at the edge of the park. A young mother hauling a stroller and a panting golden retriever halted at the edge of the grass and pointed at me.
"Look, Austin," she said in a sing-song voice. "See the hat?"
I'm not sure whether Austin was the dog or the toddler, but I smiled and waved and said a quiet "ah-ha" to myself as I continued on my way.
The hat. That's the reason everyone was so smiley and friendly. I thought about it all the way home, delighting in the fact that something so small and ridiculous could prompt such a cheerful response from strangers.
There's a quote I've seen floating around the interwebs from time to time:
"Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier."It's credited to Mother Teresa, so I won't even joke about ex-rated ways to leave someone better and happier, or the fact that she said come.
I love the idea of this even more than I love my new hat. What a simple thing it is most of the time to bring a tiny spark of happiness, good cheer, or humor into a stranger's day. How much lovelier would the world be if we all made an effort to do this at least a few times a week?
When I returned home from the walk, my gentleman friend was still asleep. As my good deed for the day, I refrained from putting my cold hands on his warm and dozing body. I suppose I could have come up with other ways to spread happiness, but we both had to go to work.
How do you make an effort to leave others better and happier than before you crossed paths? Can you think of a time someone else has done that for you? Please share.
And feel free to laugh at my new hat. I encourage it.