7 am. Some wake up to work, some to survive, some in order to love. Mr. Higgings didn't wake up for any of these reasons. Mr. Higgins woke up in order to smile. By 8 am a butterfly flew around his bike. By 8.15 he stopped to hear the sounds of the highway. At 9 am he started to smile. Mr. Higgings sat at a bench. It was the same bench that he sat on every single morning for the past 4 years or so. When most people rushed by, only seeing a list of groceries in front of them, Higgins saw within. Nobody had noticed the white bench he sat on either. It was there, among everything like a little reminder for people to sit down and breathe, yet it was easier to keep walking than to stop. What if you stop once and suddenly you can't move forwards anymore? Higgings knew that once you stop, your world slows down and then you first begin to understand life. The speed of life distracts us from reaching understanding, sometimes even happiness. Of course Higgings understood what running felt like. Running in the rain in order to kiss Dorothy goodbye. Running away from the mean kids in the neighbourhood. Running on the beach with his dog. Running was wonderful, but running was so often away to not think. Once Higgings first sat on that bench he understood something important. Some people can't run. They lack that one thing you need in order to keep moving forward: love.
So Higgings started to smile. He smiled to everyone who walked by. He smiled to those who did not notice, those who noticed but looked surprised, those who noticed but looked judgemental, those who smiled first. Hours went by. Higgings got up at 6 pm. Now he had completed his day of work he thought. That was until he saw a stranger approach the bench. A young man sat down on Mr. Higgings bench. He drank dark roasted coffee and smoked one cigarette each day. He wore red converse and dark shades. He pretended to read The New York Times while he probably listened to The Smiths. But Mr. Higgings only saw a person who had noticed the bench, nothing else.
- Hello there young man! I see that you've noticed the bench. Mr. Higgings said proudly.
The young man pretended not to hear.
- So you read! That's good, that is excellent. You know my wife Dorothy got me into reading. Before her I never noticed the importance of words, I only saw what was in front of me. The young man continued to stare into The New York Times. But inside his shades, a tear was falling down.
- You know I'm happy that you found my bench. It means you see things. I like people who see in feelings. The young man looked up and started laughing.
- Hey old man, you know I get that you have some stories inside you that you wish to share, but this is just a bench. We give it its meaning, other than that it's just a bench. Today I saw it and I thought that I should sit on it and that is it, just another bench.
Mr. Higgings took a deep breath.
-Young man. I'll tell you something. Not because I wish to share my experience but because you need to hear it. I used to run through my entire life. Everything just happened because I did everything in my power to have the kind of life we all strive to have. But maintaining it was a struggle. I had to pay the price. The price was to keep moving no matter what. If I would start to think or care I could not live the so called dream life. I didn't notice people. People didn't notice me. We just kept running. Until one day when I was searching for a smile. I was walking slowly among all those who ran. My world was slowing down. I felt how old I was getting. It's like I aged 20 years during that one day. I stopped running. My wife had just left me. In the world of runners she was a walker and she could not stand us runners. Running towards success. So I had to stop. I stopped so much that I quit my job. I stopped so much that I stopped pleasing other people or prentending to like something I didn't. I stopped so much that I had difficulty getting up in the morning.
-What happened then? The young man asked. I mean you're here now. Something must have helped you.
-Hmm..helped me? Like you did today young man I sat on this very bench filled with feelings I could not share. And on this bench beside me sat an older man than myself. He was just smiling openly and so I asked him why he was smiling, and he told me that it was his job. He told me what an awful person he had been when he was younger, and that he wanted to spend the rest of his life doing real work. Real work I wondered. Then he told me that a smile is worth more than any money or success in ones career. A smile can save lives, a smile can heal those who feel broken inside. He called it the happiness company this very bench that we are sitting on right now. The happiness company only had one owner and worker and it was that one old man. 4 years ago he left the city for some wonderful reason I guess, but I felt like I needed to take over the company. So this is my workplace.
-Then what do you do? The young man wondered.
- I just smile.
The old man walked away and young man felt warmth inside him and suddenly he started to smile and he could not stop smiling after that.