This I Believe

Tamara - Friendswood, Texas
Entered on September 20, 2006
Age Group: 30 - 50

The Power of a Smile

I believe in the power of a smile. A good smile can turn my day around. It can boost my spirit and soften my outlook. When I’m having a bad day, it can help me to keep going, keep trying. And it’s not just when I receive a smile, but also when I give it. Sometimes giving a smile to someone else can brighten my mood. They say that the act of smiling can change your brain chemistry.

A few years ago I lost my smile. I just didn’t use it as much, and, as they say, if you don’t use it, you lose it. I didn’t realize it was gone until my son asked, “Is there something wrong, mom?” “No…why?” “You have a funny look on your face.” “I was smiling!” “Oh…it doesn’t look like a smile.” — My smile had deteriorated to a grimace. I checked it in front of a mirror. Yup, sure enough, I had lost it. So, I began exercising my smile muscles—smile, hold, relax, smile, hold, relax. (I want to point out that I did this in private and can’t believe I’m admitting to it on national radio!) Anyway, after a few weeks of exercise, I noticed that it was easier for me to smile. I almost had it back. Now to put it to use. So, I started smiling at the clerk at the store, the bus driver who picks up my kids, the receptionist at the doctor’s office, people I interacted with each day. And although I had my share of strange looks and half-hearted responses, I began to see that my smile was having an effect. When I went to the doctor’s office, the receptionist no longer greeted me with cold indifference. As soon as I smiled at her, she responded in kind. It became a much more positive interaction.

Some people might say that I am a Polly Anna. But I’m not. I don’t believe that a smile can solve all our problems. I listen to NPR, watch the news, read the paper, and generally, worry about the state of the world. So, I write my congressmen, donate to charities, volunteer my time, and try to be an educated voter. But smiling is my way of trying to make the world a better place. It’s a small thing I try to do each day. It may seem like nothing in comparison to what people like Mother Teresa have done. But it is my hope that it has a ripple effect. Maybe the person I smile at today will smile at someone tomorrow, and that person will smile at another person, and so on.

Mother Teresa once said, “Peace begins with a smile,” and I believe it.