Smile Like You Mean It

I  Home Flown

So  I’m  up  a  mountain  in  Crete. It’s  idyllic. I’m lucky, I  know  I’m  lucky. I’m  working  hard  and  my  legs  are  turning  into  steel  rods  carrying  things  hither  and  thither  up  and  down  the  hills. I  usually  live  in  one  of  the  flattest  parts  of  England, we’re not  used  to  slopes. But, I’m  lucky.  I’m  with  nice  people, Crete  is  stunningly  beautiful  and  the  sun  is  shining  pretty  much  every  day. I  have  a  passport  that  allowed  me  to  travel   (for  now  anyway  ) effortlessly  on  a  plane  to  get  here  and  I  sailed  through  passport  checks  on  arrival .

When  I  was  younger  I  travelled  quite  a  bit .  I  was  fairly  used  to  not  understanding  the  language of  the  country  I  was  in and  used  to  struggling  to  make  myself  understood .  I  was  pretty  used  to  being  treated  with  disdain  because  I  was  English   (in  the  80’same,  being  English  was  not  cool  and  it’s  rapidly  looking  that  way  again). I  took  it  as  standard  that  being  a  lone ,  female  traveller meant  being  hassled ,  coming  up  against  prejudice  and  having  to  have  my  wits  about  me. But  it’s  been  a  long  time .  Over  the  last  twenty  years  I’ve  only  really  travelled  to  visit  friends  where  a  warm  reception  has  been  guaranteed.

The  Greeks  are  renowned  for  their  hospitality  and  I  have  been  on  the  receiving  end  of  their  welcoming  smiles, friendly  waves and  open  determination  to  try  and  decipher  my  arm  waving  to  describe  things. I  have  been  sent  on  shopping  missions  as  part  of  my  job  here  and  it  is  actually  quite  hard  to  mime  a  lettuce  and  spring  onions . Try  it . .. Olives  are  much  easier  and  paper  napkins  are  a  doddle .  However ,  there  is  one  man  who  stands  resolutely  blank  faced  in  the  face  of  my  miming  and   (very) pigeon  Greek. At  first ,  I  thought  he  was  just  shy  and  maybe  a  bit  frightened  of  my  exuberance .  I  soon  came  to  realise  it  is  because  I  am  foreign .  He’s  a  rare  one  out  here, the  Greeks  are  gloriously  friendly  and  generous  in  my  experience .  What  was, what  I  thought ,  shy  soon  became  mildly  hostile .  I  soon  noticed  how  quickly  this  chipped  away  at  my  confidence .  How  frustrating  it  was  to  not  be  able  to  ask  him  why, to  not  be  able  to  have  a  conversation ,  to  not  be  able  to  tell  him  that  I’m  a  mother ,  a  daughter ,  a  human.

I  am  grateful .  It  is  a  timely  reminder  of  what  my  friends  are  going  through. That  not  being  seen  as  human  quickly  seeps  through  to  create  a  second  layer  of  skin, it  becomes  a  part  of  you. A part  of  you  that  is  difficult  to  shake  off  even  when  amongst  friends ,  in  safe  and  welcome  company .  I  am  reminded  of  the  priceless  value  of  a  friendly  smile from  a  stranger which  can  lift  the  spirits  and  transform  a  day. You  don’t  have  to  go  out  and  perform  miracles ,  save  the  world  and  everyone  in  it. Just  smile .  Just  let  someone  know  that  they  are  so  welcome  to  share  the  same  bit  of  earth  that  belongs  to  none  of  us. We  are  all  only  here  for  a  short  while  so  smile  like  you  mean  it. None  of  us  has  any  more  right  than  the  next  person  to  be  walking  this  beautiful  planet  of  ours.

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One thought on “Smile Like You Mean It

  1. You are so right Glynis, we are all blessed to be here. You are lucky to be in Crete, one of my favourite places. Where are you and what are you doing? If you get time to read, seek out The Cretan Runner. Cx

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