This I Believe

Alyssa - Washington, District of Columbia
Entered on January 26, 2007
Age Group: 18 - 30

I believe in the power of a smile. This belief was reaffirmed when I was a global ambassador on a trip with a non-profit organization to Sierra Leone. On the airplane, the only thoughts I had were of Blood Diamond, a movie about the war in Sierra Leone that had only just recently ended. The images of blood and violence and the anguish and distress reflected in the eyes of the people were pictures that haunted me the entire plane ride. I was not sure what I could do to help the people of Sierra Leone, or if they would even want me to help them. The minute we stepped off the plane Sierra Leonians, many who had never seen a white person before, instantly surrounded us. Some were there as part of our in-country staff, and some simply curious, like children flocking to look at something new. I was unsure of what to do, so I simply smiled. The next thing I knew, I was given hugs by our entire welcoming committee.

One of the women who worked at the mission we stayed at asked me why I was so happy and smiling all of the time. I told her it was because I was overjoyed to be present in such a beautiful country. In reality, my answer should have been that it was the only thing I knew how to do to help them. I later asked her why she asked me that particular question. Her response was that people in Sierra Leone do not have anything to smile about, and so she rarely ever sees people smiling. As I embraced her, I told her that I would continue to smile for her and for all of the people in Sierra Leone as well.

In my work with the homeless in various cities across the United States, I have had many conversations with them about what they miss the most about being a more recognized member of society. The most frequent response was human contact. When walking on the street, many people look right through homeless people, not even giving them the time of day. In reality, yes, most of them want money. However, a smile goes just as far, and often farther, for it helps them feel alive and wanted.

I have found that even the smallest child will respond to a smile. Seeing a smile reflected back at me in the eyes of someone else is one of the most beautiful things in the entire world. A smile is a little ray of sunshine in a stormy life that I can share with everyone.

I believe in the power of a smile. Not only does it brighten my own life, but it also lights up the lives of the people around me and can truly make a difference. A smile is universal and is something that I can share with everyone.