This I Believe

Cory - Santa Rosa, California
Entered on March 19, 2007
Age Group: 18 - 30

The most powerful gesture

A smile is the most powerful gesture. It’s simple, unassuming, and speaks volumes about a person before you’ve even met them. On top of that, everyone loves to be smiled at; a smile shows someone that they don’t have to fear you, that you’re just another person like them and that you’re saying “hello, how are you?”

I believe in smiling. I don’t know what first caused me to form this belief, but I do know that every time I pass someone on the street, I smile at them; it makes me feel like I’ve maybe brightened up a moment of their life by acknowledging their existence, instead of focusing on the sidewalk and passing them by as if they were just another obstacle in my path. Often, they smile back.

I used to have to consciously tell myself to smile at someone, and I would make sure that I did to everyone I passed. I found it interesting how quickly the positive responses came when I started doing this; everyone I passed would brighten up when they saw that I was smiling at them. Some would even jump a little, as if surprised that someone would take the – really very little – effort required to smile at them. A couple people even gave me that funny little half-nod coupled with a friendly “‘Sup?”

No one is immune to the effects of a smile, either. I’ve smiled at people who come down the street with a scowl on their faces, as if trying to tell the world not to mess with them because they’re dangerous and liable to blow at any minute. Funny how fast a smile melts that expression away. If I can’t or choose not to give homeless people money, I try to make sure I at least smile at them to acknowledge their humanity. Sometimes I think they appreciate this more than my spare change.

Now I’m not trying to be some sort of smiling Saint Jr. or something like that – I don’t know of any high school senior that could even be considered remotely saintly; I simply think that no one should have to feel antagonized or ignored when they walk down the street. Try it sometime, I bet you’ll be surprised at what you see.