A few months ago, I was at a café, getting dinner after an excruciatingly long day at work. I was exhausted, and I ate my sandwich without enjoying it very much. Just when I decided to pay the bill and leave, the waiter came to my table with a plate of delicious chocolate tart and a note. ‘Looks like it has been a hard day. Don’t worry, it’s going to be okay’, it said. Pleasantly taken aback, I looked around for familiar faces, but there were no other customers at the café. The waiter told me that the person who sent me the note and the tart had just left. Hurriedly, I picked up my bag and ran to the door, but the person had disappeared into the crowd on the street. All exhaustion from the day had vanished, as I stood there holding my note and smiling.
I never found out who the stranger was or why they had decided to write me a note. But I realised the power of a simple act of kindness. I realised that something as simple as smiling at a stranger on the metro can make a difference. It’s like motivational speaker and author Steve Maraboli once said: “Smile at strangers and you just might change a life.”
Perhaps, this is what London-based artist Andy Leek had in mind. Leek has made a habit of leaving strangers handwritten notes to bring a smile on their faces. Drawing from his own struggle with mental health issues, the artist wishes to help people like him by sharing the lessons he learnt on his journey to recovery. I have no doubts about the power of the positivity that Leek attempts to spread with his initiative. Imagine you’re feeling lost and nothing is going the way you had planned, and you find a handwritten note in a phone booth that says, ‘Always keep in mind that when you’re sad, there will be a time when you’ll be happy again’.
Leek isn’t alone in his mission to spread smiles. In London, there is a mystery man who leaves flowers and motivational notes in public places with the simple aim to make people feel extraordinary. Among the many who were reported to have loved the gesture was 26-year-old Ruth Clark, who found a handwritten note and flowers at a bus stop and said they ‘made her year’.