There's a woman in my neighborhood who has transformed over the last two years.
We live by a lake, on a road that is a common walking loop - there isn't much traffic (especially in the winter), and there are lovely glimpses of the water and a 3 mile loop. When we first moved to the area, we noticed that a lot of people walk the loop every day. The same people, year-round. Some are young, some are not... some are fast walkers, some take it slow, some walk with friends, some walk alone... many people have dogs.
The person I am thinking about walks the loop every day. She used to walk quite slowly, and had two dogs who would take their time sniffing their way along the route. She wore baggy clothes - I sometimes thought she might be hiding inside them. She looked down at the ground a lot, and it was hard to make any eye contact with her. She sometimes walked with a friend, or maybe her partner, and they would talk. She didn't look happy.
Over the last year, I have noticed that her pace has picked up a little, and that she has started walking regularly with a friend. She has started looking further ahead down the road, and it's a little easier to get her attention with a wave or a head nod as I walk or drive past. I started seeing her every day. It didn't matter what the weather was - hot sun, blizzard snow, pouring rain... there she would be, walking the loop with her dogs, every morning.
My kids and I are a pretty friendly bunch - we like to wave at people as we drive by, just to bring a little extra happiness into the world. Not everyone responds in kind, but I think that - in our neighborhood - we have begun to wear off on a few people.
About two months ago I noticed that this particular person was smiling and waving at my car as we drove by, even if we didn't wave first... I also noticed there was more of a lift in her step, and that she had started wearing different clothes: baggy is out, sporty casual is in. She looks awesome - happy, confident, lighter somehow - and her energy is obviously so different.
I don't know what changed for her (although I am dying to stop and ask her), but it makes me so very happy to see it. I like to think her daily walk helps, and that she has found a new friend to share her thoughts with. I like to think our daily wave makes a difference... you never know.
What I do know is that seeing her every day reminds ME to be grateful for the opportunities I have to change my own outlook (and the habits that make that possible), for the amazing people who surround my family, and for the 3 mile loop outside my door.