Ordinary Encounters

I went in for an eye exam the other day, which I’ve been putting off for months. To make matters worse, it was a rainy Monday morning and it was one of those days where I woke up already feeling behind on the hundred things I needed to get done.

So you can imagine how delighted I was about having to spend the next hour getting air puffed into my eyes and squinting to make out those tiny little letters on that belittling chart, just to confirm what I’ve known since the fourth grade: my eyesight sucks.

As I fidgeted around in an embarrassingly squeaky chair, the optometrist walked in and introduced himself. Dr. D was wearing a cerulean knit sweater and rectangular blue frames with thick lenses. His head was blanketed in wispy tufts of white hair (more cirrus than cumulus, if you must know), and he had an ease and playfulness about him that reminded me of my dad.

“The good news is, your eyesight shouldn’t get any worse,” he says grinning.

“It’s one of the few benefits of getting older. Nearsightedness tends to improve.”

He pulled up a photo of my eyes and as he pointed out my macula, a small but very important part of the retina, I’m told, I noticed he had a slight tremor in his hand. I wonder how long he’s had it and think about my dad again. Before I can dwell on this for too long, my thoughts are interrupted.

“OK, pop quiz! How do you spell macula?”

“M-A-C…U-L-A?” I had never heard of a macula before this and wasn’t sure if the word had one or two c’s in it.

“Very good. Your prize is a new prescription.”

I laugh. Dr. D clicks through more images of my eyes and explains that I have astigmatism and goes into great detail about the axis and cylinder numbers on my prescription and what they mean, all while peppering in movie recommendations (American Fiction) and stories about his daughter. I don’t remember the rest of our conversation but at one point, I was laughing so hard I had to stop the exam to wipe tears from my eyes.

Walking out of his office, I felt so much lighter — bubbly, even. Our interaction had injected some carbonation into my previously flat mood, and this energy carried me through the rest of the day, as I made my way through that tedious list of to-dos that weighed me down just hours before.

It got me thinking about all of the ordinary encounters we have on any given day — with the cashier at our coffee shop, the Amazon delivery guy, the dentist, or in this case, the eye doctor — and it struck me how much of an impact we can have on others by how we show up or treat them. It doesn’t have to be some great gesture; you can turn someone’s day around in small, subtle ways, simply by giving them your full attention, if even for a brief moment.

I’d love to know: What are some of the ordinary encounters you’ve had recently that have made a difference in your day?

P.S. Nine reader comments on kindness, and do you have a not-so-stranger?

Jenny Jin is a beauty editor, writer and on-air expert based in Los Angeles. On Cup of Jo, she shared her week of outfits and has written about breakups and friendships. Find her on Instagram @jyjin.

(Photo by Lindsey Rivera/Stocksy.)