This I Believe

Laurie - Hollywood, Florida
Entered on December 14, 2006

This I Believe: A Smile

While at work one day, I was surprised by something an older woman did. It was not a very big action and involved no effort or even words. I never saw the woman before and probably never will. I never spoke to her, helped her, nor greeted her upon her arrival, and yet she smiled at me. That was it, she smiled. I was in a bad mood that evening, but seeing her smile warmed me up inside and I instantly smiled back. After she left, I found myself in better spirits and smiled to every customer afterwards. I had no reason to smile at them, but then again I had no reason not to.

It seems funny to me how the simplest act of kindness can be surprising in todays world. If someone was to approach you, ask how your day went, and begin to hold a conversation with you, I am sure you would feel uncomfortable. But why? Why is it that people are weary of those who are friendly? Why feel uncomfortable that someone took the time, with no incentive or benefit on their behalf, to acknowledge your presence and listen to you? I think it is because we are socially structured to do so. With so much hate and mistrust in our world, people tend to separate themselves from others they are not familiar with. Fear overshadows our joys and we lose sight of happiness with and kindness towards others. People no longer know how to express compassion to those other than whom they know. It is sad to see I live in a world where people are considered “strangers” cannot be received friendly gestures and acts of kindness are often found surprising.

I believe in the power of a smile. To be able to look at someone, say nothing, and have them understand that their presence is welcomed. Like a sneeze or yawn, I see smiles as contagious and something worth catching and passing on; a friendly germ that will change the lives of others no matter how small or big. I do not know what inspired that woman to smile at me but I do know she turned my bad day into a good one, leaving me to wonder: If a complete stranger could have such memorable effect on me with such a simple act of kindness, what effect could I have on someone else and they in turn on another? I like to think that her smile, which became mines, and then someone else’s, is still being passed on around the world as a friendly exchange between two strangers just to be kind and possibly change their lives for the better.