The confused look in his eyes when I told him how beautiful I think his passion and ambition is, told me that he must not get compliments like these often. He’s used to receiving compliments on how much he’s worth as a player, but not how much he’s valued as a person. He didn’t know how to respond, he was almost scared. And that’s when it struck me. In a world where we are constantly praising each other’s physical appearance, materialistic belongings, and fame, we must remind people how rich they are. Not in money, but in character.
_____, a professional soccer player for the _______, and I have been talking for a few months before we met in _____ of 2012. I knew there was something special about him from our conversations. What I didn’t know was how much girls were throwing themselves at him because of his looks, soccer skills, money, and fame. At soccer practice I would overhear my teammates discussing how much they adore him, but for all the wrong reasons. “He is so good looking.” “I bet he got a lot of extra money for that goal he scored over the weekend. Must be nice to have a boyfriend who could spend his money on you.” My stomach turned, and my ears burned listening to these comments. I didn’t want to say that I knew him, but I couldn’t help myself from defending him. With some anger in my voice I said, “There’s more to him than that. Don’t you admire his ambition? Do you even care if he’s a great person, or do you just care about his fame?” My teammates didn’t take two seconds to reflect on what I said. They just laughed. Their mocking laughter seemed to have answered my questions.
I wondered how often _____ receives superficial compliments like these. To think that people wanted to be a part of his life just to tag along for all the depthless benefits bothered me. I was curious if he was aware of these things. Did he ever receive compliments on being the great person that he is? These thoughts were haunting me, but they also inspired me. I felt the need to let _____ know that his individuality is more appreciated than his soccer identity.
Since _____ played for a team in ______ we had to wait until he played on the east coast to meet. I felt it was appropriate to let him know how much he’s valued in person, rather than in a text or over the phone. This opportunity came in _______ when he played in _________ . We met in the lobby and went for a walk along the river. It was an easy flowing conversation. As if this wasn’t the first time we were meeting. The topics of the conversation got really deep, really fast. I knew this was the right time to tell him how much I respected his ambition, and appreciated the person he is. “I know girls are throwing themselves at you for many reasons, but I just want you to know how much I admire your ambition. You have a unique spark both on and off the field. Without soccer and everything you’ve accomplished in it, you would still be an amazing guy.” It was easy for me to say, I was just speaking from my heart. But I could tell it wasn’t easy for him to hear.
The silence after I finished speaking wasn’t awkward, or empty. It seemed to be filled with emotion. He did not say any words, but his eyes spoke to me. The way they widened showed he was surprised, maybe even scared. Once they relaxed, I could tell he was relaxed. As if someone was finally seeing who he really is for the first time, and letting him know that he doesn’t have to hide behind his materialistic belongings. He seemed comfortable that someone valued him as a person, rather than just for his success. Yet, he seemed uncomfortable since this was an unfamiliar situation for him. I broke the silence by suggesting we go back to the hotel since we both had a long travel day. Before the elevator stopped on my floor he turned to me and said, “I can already tell we’re going to be best friends ‘till the end. I’m really glad we met.” From the tone in his voice I could tell that what I told him, meant a lot to him. I replied, “me too,” with a smile both on my face and in my heart.
When I got to my room, I thought I’d be tired after the long day, but I wasn’t. I was energized and inspired. As if my soul was ablaze with the realization that this is what I was meant to do. I was meant to let people know how much their individuality and uniqueness is cherished. I wanted to help people feel good about themselves and become more confident. I wanted people to realize that they’re beautiful, and as a result the world will become a more beautiful place to live in.
I made this my mission. Make people feel important, valued, cared for, special, recognized, and loved. Sometimes we are so concerned with ourselves that we don’t acknowledge the people around us. Whether they’re strangers, friends, or family, sometimes we don’t embrace them fully. I’ve learned that the more we look at someone, and seek their soul, the more we learn about them, and the more beautiful they become.
I woke up happy and refreshed. Not only was I awakened, but I felt reborn. I knew that going through my phone to call everyone and tell them how I feel wasn’t realistic, but I knew I could get started on my mission right away. When I went down to breakfast I said “good morning” to everyone who entered the elevator, instead of having my face in my cell phone like I usually did. When I got to the breakfast server I asked him how he liked working in a hotel. He was caught of guard that someone was interested in his work, and not just the food he was serving on our plates. It was refreshing and interesting to hear his story and how he loves his job. His excitement in his voice made it seem that he’s been eager to tell his story, but no one cared to ask. I’m glad I did.
When I sat down and ate my food I smiled at everyone that walked by and even the people I made eye contact with across the room. Not only did they smile back, but their face lit up with genuine happiness. Dr. Lickerman, a writer for Psychology Today, said it best, “In smiling at strangers, I acknowledge their humanity, and in doing that, in reminding myself of it, I promote peace.”
Seeing the way ____ face lit up when I told him how much I valued his character and respected his ambitions, inspired me to make everyone feel the same kind of appreciation and worth. I hope to inspire others to do the same. In a world that can be cold or ugly, a warm hello and welcoming smile will surely spread happiness and peace.