Gold stars have been flying out of my hands to people all around the last few days as I appreciate, from my own contemplation of how to feel good, the efforts of others to do the same.
Yesterday, I held the door for a neighbor walking in through the complicated two-door entry of my building with her bike.
As she navigated through with some degree of difficulty, she rolled her eyes. "It's such a pain to excercise," she said.
I laughed. "That's why I don't ride a bike, I just take myself out, walk or run or go to the gym," I said. "Bikes are great, but they're hard."
As she wheeled hers through yet a third door, toward the fourth, where she would try to place it among the mishmash of other bikes and strollers in our line, she shook her head. "They're HORRIBLE!"
I threw back my head and laughed. I loved the honesty of the response, that she hated to deal with the ramifications of bike-riding but that she'd done it anyway. That's life, right? Sometimes we just have to push through things, even things we find "horrible," to get to a potentially positive result. I gave her her gold star happily.
"Thank you, Stephanie," she said, looking at me gratefully. "This really makes me feel good."
That is the point, that is why I do what I do. I do not reach all that many with my blog, my fan base may be small, and I make no money. But hearing people tell me that the small sparkly star actually gives them even a moment of joy? That, truly, is the greatest reward.
I got that yesterday from a lady who had patiently let me back in line at Union Market when I had ducked away to grab beer for my husband, who was to be home with the kids while I went out.
"Thank you," I said, "Not everyone is so friendly..."
She smiled. "Well, it's only a matter of a minute."
I laughed. "Yes, but this is New York, it's a 'New York Minute.' "
She shrugged. "I'm feeling patient today."
I gave her a gold star on my way out, as she stepped up to the cashier.
"Thank you so much!" she said.
People ask me often if strangers think I'm strange, if they question why on earth I'm giving them a star. And the truth is, usually no. I get very few questions. True, I often wait until I am on my way out of a place to give the star, as I want to leave people thinking of the star itself and themselves rather than me, the star giver. But the looks on people's faces aren't usually quizzical, they're grateful. I think they actually do think in that moment of their own efforts, and of the star as their own reward. I am curious, often, what goes through people's minds in this regard, what they most wish to be rewarded for but aren't, but I mostly refrain from asking. It is none of my business unless people choose to share.
As I seek my own rewards I know that a gold star isn't everything, it can't possibly be. But it's a start and, I believe, a hopeful reminder, wherever one puts it, that every day, in little ways, we should all feel good about what we're doing, even if it's just taking the time and energy to take a bike ride or offering kindness to someone who keeps you waiting in a line.