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Monday, 13 August 2012

Simply SMILE!

I feel extremely fortunate to have been living in London during such an extremely exciting and inspiring time as The London 2012 Olympics have been.

The capitol's streets that are all too often full of the dreariness, depression and drudgery of those commuters who try to block out the outside world with iPods, smartphones and other copious forms of social media- have been replaced by smiling, exuberant volunteers, those selfless people appropriately and affectionally named 'Games Makers', prepared to give of their own time for no fee, just to be a part of the most exciting event to be held in our country for decades.

As is often the case in life in my opinion, there has been a domino affect of emotion and spirit, as these wonderful people have been the catalyst of joy that has been passed on to those around them with a simple smile, a direction, or a just an, " I hope that you have a lovely day"!

What we need to do now that this wonderful spark of positivity has been ignited, is maintain, embrace and nurture what is already shining so bright within so many hearts, and not allow ourselves as the summer of sport, strength and spirit draws to a close and the sunshine weans- to return to our selfish and self obsessed, unappreciative daily grind.

As a wheelchair user living in our capitol, I am all too often confronted by people who find it uncomfortable simply to see my existence, who cross the road to avoid my gaze, either to avoid some form of interaction with me, or to simply avoid being reminded of their own physical fortune- as it sadly seems so much easier for so many to focus upon the negatives in their life, than to smile about the positives and blessings that they do have.

Only the other day did I experience such an example of this self absorbed attitude, when I was trying to negotiate my way down the street with my shopping. On this previous Saturday's beautifully sunny afternoon, I was wheeling down a narrow pavement outside of my local supermarket when ahead of me was a twenty something woman with headphones inserted  blasting music whilst also completely engrossed in her smart phone.

The result of this particular encounter, was that after asking 'excuse me' four or five times to no avail, the girl then stepped back into the footplate of my chair. 

My knee jerk response was to of course apologise profusely, only to be greeted by an indignant look from said supposedly sweet and kind looking women.

The concoction of shock, annoyance and what appeared to be disdain of my being out in public- (perhaps a little paranoid, but that was certainly the impression that was given), the women's next response was to stomp off, before turning round to shout "well excuse you!!"

Already late to see my friends in the park and armed with the much needed Pimms for everyone's afternoon enjoyment, I thought briefly about doing what I usually do and let people's pettiness wash over me before zooming onto the park; instead, in this instance I felt compelled to respond and attempt to educate this women in social etiquette and basic humanity.

I called after the women who had hastily began to scurry away, (perhaps after realising the error of her ways)- informing her that "...I did indeed say 'excuse me' repeatedly, before you in fact walked into me! I then even said sorry, all of which you were oblivious to as you were in another world playing with your iPhone and made deaf to the world by your headphones!".

I was again offered another look of- who are you to talk to me?

What more can you do? At least this time, I felt a little lest pent up with frustration wheeling away from the encounter, although probably no less flustered following my altercation!

Only today I was talking with a fellow wheelchair user in my high street, who was telling me that he too has to contend with people walking down the street texting, tweeting and Googling, who so absorbed in their smart phones, frequently walk straight into his lap! 

We both shared tales of such instances and how instead of being apologetic, some people even have the nerve to look at us as if we are in the wrong for being in their way!

Rant over and steering swiftly back to my desired point!!! My desire for the legacy of these wonderful Olympic and Paralympic Games, is not only for sports to be more freely available to young people of whatever background and physical situation; but that this fantastic spirit and atmosphere can be harnessed and channelled into the simple things in life, such as having courtesy and compassion for those who you share this world with ( and in this instance- the pavements!), even if those people happen to be at an inconvenient height to detect when texting!

As a Londoner, I have found there to be a tangible shift in people's mood and demeanour during these wonderful last two weeks.

I am conscious that during this lull in proceedings between the Olympics and The hugely anticipated Paralympics, (of which I'm loving the advertising slogan- "Thanks for the warm up". Genius!)- that we have to make a conscious effort to keep this spirit alive by doing simple things such as smiling and interacting in a positive manner to those around us.

Well that's my opinion on things anyway, and on that note, my current opinion on life, (well my life anyway!)- is that I am quite frankly pooped and ready for my bed!

Give it a go tomorrow. Risk looking like a nutter and smile at those around you on the tube, train or in the traffic jam during your commute to work.  What harm can it do exactly?

From my personal experience one small positive action in the world like smiling at another fellow human being can lead to all manner of wonderful encounters and opportunities!

If you need encouraging- I met one of the most interesting and inspiring people in my life by simply smiling and him subsequently reaching out to say hello in response. Thus followed a dialogue which has lead to us actually working together on so many exciting projects!!

Life is short, so why waste it frowning and avoiding other people's gaze.

Sleep well people, give yourself plenty of energy for all that smiling!

The 2012 Olympic Reader stylie!