The combination of jet lag and lack of sleep had taken its toll upon me. I sat there in a faraway airport, wishing to be home, and cursing the vagaries of air travel that had sentenced me to one delay after another.
In other words, I was in a foul mood.
I’d already snapped at my beloved and the thought of those cool one-word conversations to come as a result were not helping my mood.
About that time, a young couple wandered past. They were deeply engrossed in a sheaf of papers that obviously held what once were well-laid travel plans that were now, thanks to those aforementioned flight snafus, only a wishful thought.
The father was pushing a stroller. Sitting inside was a curly-haired tyke of about 18 months. He looked like he was in something of a funk himself. He’d already spit out his pacifier and was just sitting there, one hand on his chin, looking for all the world like he was deep in study over the wonders of the universe.
Those curly locks and gorgeous dark eyes, lidded by heavy lashes, caught my attention. The quizzical look on his face, even in my ill state of mind, was more than I could take.
The father had stopped for a moment, deep in conversation with the toddler’s mom. In just that moment the tyke looked over at me. Our faces were less than three feet apart.
My smile broadened and I whispered: “Hey there!”
The little one jumped in his seat as if I’d pinched him.
Then he smiled back. A broad, baby-toothed smile that seemed to fill his tiny face.
And then he waved at me.
Leaning forward a bit, he waved and kept waving. Daddy and Mama kept on talking and this little fellow waved and smiled. The more he did it, the cuter he got.
After a minute or so, he stopped waving but he kept right on smiling. Then he cocked his head, looked at me and gurgled something I couldn’t understand but appreciated nevertheless. He was trying to communicate with me.
It all took probably less than 60 seconds, but then the Mom and Dad decided it was time to move on and he gave the stroller a tentative push, alerting the tyke that they were all about to be off again on their journey.
As if he understood, the little boy threw up his hand again and off he went, down the concourse, waving bye-bye to me as long as I could see him amidst the throng of travelers sweeping by.
In an instant, he was gone.
That smile, those eyes and that friendly wave lifted my spirits higher than the wings of the plane ever could as, eventually, I made my way home.
Never underestimate the power of a single smile.
Robert M. Williams Jr. is an Effingham native and publisher of several Georgia weekly newspapers. His commentaries can also be heard on Georgia Public Radio. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.