This I Believe

Nisha - Wichita, Kansas
Entered on November 13, 2006

The Impact of an Ordinary Smile

I believe in smiling. A mere smile can convey optimism and friendliness. This simple facial expression, a lifting of the corners of the mouth, can remarkably influence others’ lives. This I believe.

When I turned fifteen, I began volunteering at a hospital. Until then, my experiences in serving the community included shelving books at the library or paperwork, both activities without direct contact with people. Consequently, my first day volunteering on the hospital’s pediatrics floor seemed petrifying. The Child Life Assistant Specialist told me my purpose: to cheer patients up simply by spending time with them. She informed me about a five-year-old girl with pneumonia who, terrified of nurses and doctors, felt extremely depressed in the hospital’s environment. Despite studying long lists of instructions on how to occupy children in every age group, I still felt unprepared. I nervously walked into her room and introduced myself. Not knowing what else to do, I smiled. She shyly returned that simple gesture, revealing a missing front tooth, with her first smile since her admission in the hospital, her grandmother later informed me. For the next five hours we made glittery art projects, talked, and played Candy Land. I learned that her favorite color was hot pink and that her favorite Disney movie was Sleeping Beauty. I also observed that she refused to eat or drink anything in spite of prompting from nurses and for this reason, required intravenous fluid. Not

wanting to urinate on her own, she also needed catheterization. During that afternoon, however, she began to respond to my persistent coaxing and started to eat and drink. Furthermore, her mood improved significantly and she began cooperating with the nurse, who thankfully informed me that her patient no longer needed catheterization because she used the restroom by herself. By the end of the day, her initial bashful smile developed into laughter.

That day, I realized the incredible effect an ordinary smile can have on another person. A smile accomplished more than the medical efforts of the doctors and nurses, it established the foundation of a friendship that made my encouragements successful. I believe that through conveying affability and compassion in a manner that words cannot, a smile can provide a unique type of comfort. A congenial smile can significantly impact others’ lives. This I believe.