In my last post, I mentioned the benefits a smile can bring. Smiling also makes you seem more open. If you offer someone a warm smile, they will be more likely to want to chat, to be your friend. A hostile expression which I see every day on streets and in corridors (and, I’m sure, am guilty of myself on many occasions) will not encourage someone to stop and chat to you, but a little smile might.
Irish people—if I’m honest, the older generation or Irish people—tend to be very talkative and apt to make friends with anyone and everyone. It can be confusing as a child when you are told not to talk to strangers, but see your parents doing so. I guess the rules vary!
Yesterday I went shopping with my parents and their friends. We sat down to a cup of tea in the shopping centre and an elderly gentleman sat at the next table. As is my custom, I gave him a big smile and he smiled back.
A few minutes later, my dad said hello to him and they made a few passing remarks on the weather.
The next minute (if you’re Irish, you’ll find this normal), he was telling us his entire life story.
And what a story!
He is the fourth generation of a family of blacksmiths, and owns a forge where he makes anything that can be made out of metal, all the old-fashioned way, with particular emphasis on ploughs. I don’t know if he still works there, being presumably in his seventies or eighties, but he has taught many younger people the trade.
He took us through the years with his stories, talking about “The Emergency”—what neutral Ireland referred to the Second World War as—and how iron was so scarce that it was necessary to melt down one horse shoe to make the next one. You all know I enjoy craft, and I got a lesson not only in metalwork, but in good old-fashioned husbandry.
Speaking of old-fashioned craft, he mentioned that his sister was a dressmaker, and was best friends with their next-door neighbour—both girls “could make anything with a bit of cloth.”
It transpired that this neighbour got married to a man who owned a sweet shop…in my dad’s hometown, where he bought his sweets as a boy!
This again is a bit of Irish trait… everyone in Ireland knows everyone else, and that’s a fact. You just have to join up the dots.
Anyway, this man’s story turned out to be ever so interesting, and it struck me that if we hadn’t smiled at him and politely said hello, we never would have heard it. Perhaps we’ll visit his forge one day. I believe he did a demonstration for a DVD made as part of “The Gathering”. Maybe we’ll try to find that.
There’s always time to be polite, and if you have a few minutes, you might make a new friend.
Smiles not only spread happiness, but it turns out they can open a whole lot of doors!