Friday, October 17, 2014

A London picnic

A few months back on a trip to London, my friend and I stopped in Charing Cross station to eat our picnic. An odd picnic site perhaps, but it made sense as it was tipping with rain outside and we were due to visit a nearby theatre shortly.

We sat on a bench in the station and watched the people come and go - all sorts, some in a hurry and some not so. We enjoyed watching different scenarios play out in front of us as people met, rushed for a train, flirted or rushed by with the cares of the world on their brow.

It only takes a smile
At one point a lady walked by us as we sat and ate and she turned to look at us sitting there, eating our picnic. I smiled, she looked a nice person. She smiled back and came over to talk to us. 'Because you smiled' she said.

She turned out to be an amazing character, larger than life. After some joking and a quick resumé of her way to make millions ('I have this idea that Apple, that's what we call Steve, would have loved), we continued the conversation. She asked why we were in London (to see Lion King) and then told us why she was here.

The reason she was in London was to appeal to court to take custody of an abused child she and her partner  had looked after when the mother abandoned the girl.

A simple smile rewarded my friend and I with fifteen minutes of insight into someone else's life - someone we would never meet again, or know what happened to them and the people they cared about.  They had been through a difficult day in court, and wouldn't know the outcome for some time - three lives could change so dramatically according to what the court might decide.

Claudine (she told us her name, and her age, and that they came from Leicester) was so happy to have had a smile, she said. They were an unusual couple - different ethnicities, and a 20 year age gap. But they both loved this child. We listened to her and gave her time, which was a gift she needed that day. My enduring memory of her is an aura of joy that she wore as comfortably as her big, warm coat.

So next time you are sitting in a station, or walking through, maybe a simple smile will make someone's day. You may not get the chance to talk with that person as we did with Claudine, but your smile could just be the difference they need.

Photo by me of my hot chocolate.

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