The Nice Thing About Strangers

Creative Non-Fiction Short Stories. :) Travel, Oldsters, Love, and Compassion.

Smile Like You’re Home

Outside the meeting to cover the Dos and Don’ts of volunteering at the asylum seekers center, I feel an urge to dash away. I am always terrified at the thought of something new, an odd daily battle for someone who left her job to live in a foreign country.

Modern Art, Vienna, Kunst, tourism

The eight-year-old Chechnyan boy has a Mohawk mullet. We make eye contact before the meeting begins. He looks like my brother. I grin and he hides his face. He’s seated at the table along with three other children.

Another boy wears a New York Yankees cap. “Yankees?” I whisper, “You like baseball?”

He seems surprised: “No.”

As the director begins speaking, the Chechnyan boy rests his elbows and the table and clasps his hands like he is praying before a meal. He catches my attention again and giggles silently. He’s wearing a black button up shirt with a black four-button vest over it. He cups his hands in front of his mouth and keeps smiling, meeting my eyes, and hiding his grin. I should be listening to the rules, as I’m naturally rule-abiding–but as one who is naturally rule-abiding, I feel I’ll just know.

The boy blinks at me again and we both laugh at something no one else notices. I forget that I am supposed to be one of the grown ups. My mind is climbing to gratitude, and how my little brother also has such a spirit and impish grin, and how we had the same home and phone number for our whole lives.  How we could stay in one place, and how this boy had to flee, and yet the smile was the same. How we are in ourselves something immovable and portable and resilient.

Grafitti, Vienna


12 comments on “Smile Like You’re Home

  1. Enchanted Seashells
    December 19, 2012

    another beautiful portrait of a moment. you capture the details exquisitely.

    • thenicethingaboutstrangers
      December 20, 2012

      I’m so glad I took notes on the U-Bahn ride home. As soon as I saw this bit in my notebook, I remembered this boy’s adorable shyness!

      • Enchanted Seashells
        December 20, 2012

        I just do’t know where you conjured up the ability to write the way you do, I’m in awe! I really love reading your posts, I’d enjoy a book, too.

      • thenicethingaboutstrangers
        December 21, 2012

        Oh wow! Maybe a book should be my 2013 project (how often that’s been a resolution…) Thanks so much, Mrs. Seashells! 🙂 Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

  2. ramblingsfromamum
    December 20, 2012

    You have captured the moment, the top photo is so interesting with the house. Can I ask what made you decide to volunteer there? Are you a Counsellor or Nurse by trade?

  3. journeyman1977
    December 20, 2012

    I’ve run out of compliments for your posts….I swear 🙂 love it

  4. Sarah Angleton
    December 21, 2012

    You have been nominated for the Sunshine Award!
    If awards aren’t your thing, that’s okay. You are under no obligation to pass it on. Just know that your words have been an inspiration to me on my blogging journey.

  5. SirenaTales
    January 22, 2013

    Beautiful, evocative writing. Thanks for the inspiration– and for the follow so I could find you. may your path be sprinkled (generously) with love.

    • thenicethingaboutstrangers
      January 22, 2013

      Back at you! Thanks! May this be the beginning of a beautiful blog-ship! 🙂

      • SirenaTales
        January 23, 2013

        Yay, that sounds lovely, thanks! Also, have you seen the documentary “Happy?” When I read your post “Happy” it reminded me of the one I’d written (and forgotten about….) inspired by the wonderful film about happiness. Given your love of travel and the radiant vibe of your blog, I wanted to be sure to mention it. See you soon. Peace

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This entry was posted on December 19, 2012 by in Blogging, Europe, Happiness, Inspiration, Travel, Writing and tagged , , , , , , .

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