He sat at the corner of Geary and Powell on the sidewalk. He sat because he could not stand, as he was a double amputee. He was in a banged-up wheelchair. I presumed that he was homeless because I saw him there without fail every single day.
He was ordinary…and, he was extraordinary. For he did something that no one would have expected: he smiled. He held a sign that he flashed back and forth that simply read, “Smile” and “Life is good”. One second, “smile” then flip, “Life is good”. His panhandling was not about money, but about a message—one, that we privileged in San Francisco and the world needed.The Universe is a kind and good place if we are open to it. We need only to embrace it.
I smiled every time I passed. So did everyone that read his makeshift sign and grin. People tried to leave him money and I don’t remember that he ever took it. He was too busy with his work. His hands never stopped and neither did his smile.
This man had endured much, yet he was still in charge of how he saw the world and how the world saw him. The world did smile upon him. He was rich beyond measure. He had articles written about him in the newspapers. He had the admiration of many. He inspired a third-career law student who disliked law school to finish her degree and move onto the practice of law, teaching, speaking and writing.
The Universe is changed by simple acts from the ordinary and extraordinary among us. Those simple gestures and kindness not only change the world, but they move into us and set up house to live within us, creating a lifetime of awe.
My San Francisco “friend” added indelibly to my thinking and being with his smile and sign. The message I choose to flash is borne of a “friend’s” courage:
Smile, and the world smiles with you.