Our preconceived notions about individuals often hinder us from gaining insight into the real meaning of life and learning novelty from unexpected people. Upon seeing a rowdy teenager, we immediately dismiss that he/she can teach us sense of responsibility. Similarly, aged people are instantly dismissed as agents of conformity.
For me, the realization that each individual has something different to teach came about six years ago. Sitting on the beach side, I remember being oblivious to everything but my failure. I had yet again failed to live my life up to the standards I had set. Even the captivating movement of the waves did nothing to alleviate my sense of despondency until I saw him – a young boy of around twelve.
I remember wondering: what was it in his face that jolted me from my ponderings? How come this boy in tattered clothing compelled me to look at him? Then, I realized – it was his smile, a carefree, full of life smile. And yet again I wondered: what did this unfortunate boy have to smile about? His tattered clothing was evidence of the fact that he belonged to the underprivileged class. Also, he went around selling flowers, which was a further testament of the fact that he lacked even the basic rights of education, while indulging in child labour. Then how come his eyes twinkled, as if he had no worries at all?
So why should I sulk, when smiling is better. Allah (swt) does not give you everything. You have to do with what you have, and what I have is my smile.
My mind was occupied with these thoughts, when a voice called out, “Beautiful flowers for a beautiful lady!”
I looked up and saw it was the same boy. Before I could stop myself, I blurted out, “How can you smile so unconditionally, when life has nothing to offer to you?”
“Well, I only have this smile, no money, and you ask me why do I smile? Does my smile make you feel insecure?” he inquired hurtfully.
I was taken aback by this; I said, “Dear, what I meant was how do you smile so beautifully, under such circumstances?”
He again flashed one of his smiles and said, “Well madam, you know what?
When I smile, people see only my face and they forget about my clothes. My smile is magic. It brings money. I smile, people pay. So why should I sulk, when smiling is better. Allah (swt) does not give you everything. You have to do with what you have, and what I have is my smile. You look sad, why don’t you smile too, and maybe everything will be alright.”
With that, I gave him fifty rupees. And with a smile, he moved on to his next customer, leaving me with my thoughts and his message.
This conversation changed my perspective. I realized that tough times come in everyone’s life, but those, who rise beyond them, know the real meaning of life. The boy was right – nobody has everything; but only those are happy, who believe what they have is enough to strive for a better life.