He got up as he did every morning. The alarm clock rang, coffee, shower, get dressed and go out. It had been the same old routine for a long time.


He arrived at work as usual, thinking about all the “pending” tasks he had left from the previous day and all the “new” ones that might arrive that day. He would nod or say a terse “hello” to colleagues, who would bid him good morning as he arrived at his table. Pure courtesy. He just needed to get to his post as soon as possible to focus on his work and finish as soon as possible, go home, and start all over again. As he turned on the computer, he focused on his task.


– “Good morning, Borja, how are you today?”


He knew that, when he looked up, he would be met with Chelo’s friendly smile. And there it was. Chelo was the only one in the company who seemed to smile at everyone with sincerity and who asked for others because she really cared about the answer.


– “Good morning, Chelo. Here, busy since first thing” – he answered her with a half smile, because a brief hello didn’t seem enough in front of her, her kindness and her smile. ….


– “Always so responsible” – she said, widening her smile even more. There was something truly soothing about it. “If you need help with anything, you know where to find me.”


– “Thank you very much.”


She simply nodded her head while still smiling and continued on her way to her stall greeting everyone and taking an interest in them. Chelo also helped everyone. He had never asked her for help because, just as he didn’t want to be bothered, he didn’t want to bother anyone. But he knew that Chelo was good at her job, like him, and that’s why many people asked her for help with many things. She helped them all, always with a smile, of course.


That day, the job went more awry than he expected, one thing led to another and, without knowing very well how, when he looked up he saw no one. He assumed it was the last one. He had already gathered everything and was on his way to the elevator when he heard something. He followed the sound to its source and found Chelo in the break room, her face buried in her hands and breathing heavily. She sensed his presence and raised her head to look at him.


– “Oh, sorry, I thought I was alone” – he told her.


And he smiled. He never meddled in other people’s affairs, but Chelo was always good to him and he couldn’t just walk away.


– “Are you okay?”


– “Yes. I just needed a moment, to take a deep breath and let out what’s weighing me down – does that ever happen to you?”


The truth was that, no matter how much he breathed, Borja couldn’t shake off the heavy feeling in his chest.


– “Sometime” – he replied.


– “I guess it’s a normal thing that happens to all of us.”


Borja had never imagined that Chelo could feel this way, she always looked so happy and smiling…


– “Why do you need to breathe?”


– “My mother has been sick, but she’s recovering now and the doctors say she’ll be able to go home soon. I guess, now that I see the end, I needed to breathe and let it all out.”


And then Borja could not catch his breath. She had had a hard time, she had suffered and had been worried, and yet every day she was interested in everyone and the smile, which she found so soothing, had never left her face.


That day, Borja discovered the strength and courage that could be hidden behind a smile. That day he discovered that all people had their struggles and problems, but that should never be an excuse to only look out for oneself.


The next day, Borja said good morning and began to help colleagues who needed help and also to ask for help when he needed it. He took an interest in Chelo and her colleagues. And from then on, he began to feel part of something much bigger.


The heaviness in his chest gradually disappeared.


And finally, Borja breathed.

María Cerezo Herraiz

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