Have a Nice Day!

Have a nice day!

I hear this benign little saying – a social nicety – practically every day, and sometimes several times a day if I’m out and about running errands or going through a drive-through. It’s become such a rote response to a human encounter that, most of the time, I half-acknowledge it with a nod and smile.

Today, though, was different. I was leaving the YMCA after a fitness class, feeling exhilarated and joyful because I’d just spent some much-needed time caring for myself, when I passed the front desk. The man working there turned in my direction, swift as a prairie dog, and said, “Have a nice day!” His smile was genuine, and his voice was as bright and enthusiastic as sunshine.

Now, I realize that his job is to greet members, but it was the way he performed his duties that made me pause.

And think.

Here was this joyful stranger sending me well-wishes for a nice day. And at that moment in time, I felt a little tug at my heart, thanks to his kindness and thoughtfulness.

Or maybe it was the endorphins kicking in after exercising.

Whatever the cause, the result was a euphoric feeling of connection. One human being offering a ray of light to another.

In our culture, sayings like Have a nice day! have become synonymous with Goodbye! and Later!, and we don’t often appreciate the meaning of them. How many times have you said Love you! to a family member before you parted ways for the day and received a mumble in return (or with a teenager, the verbal response is typically replaced with an eye roll)?

What a glorious gift it is to know that someone cares so deeply about you and wants to share that connection with you by saying I love you! before going off in separate directions; yet how bizarre is it that this saying has become so watered down in meaning that we really don’t really hear the profound message in those three or – more often with the abbreviated version – two little words?

My encounter this morning at the YMCA has awakened something in me. From now on, I vow to use these sayings with intention; I will clearly articulate my words while I make eye contact, so that the words seem less like a saying and more like a meaning.

Like the man at the YMCA, I, too, want to offer a ray of light to others. Little things do add up to make a difference. And rays of light can band together to illuminate the world.