This I Believe

Mamta - Villa Park, California
Entered on February 15, 2007
Age Group: 18 - 30

I believe in smiles. I have a daily ritual to smile every morning, it’s the first thing I do before I crawl out of bed. And it’s not an ordinary smile, it’s a big, Julia Roberts-type of smile. Some days I force a smile and other mornings it comes naturally. But the result is always the same: when you start the day with a smile—forced or not—you set the tone for a happy day.

This smile ritual started when I lived in Washington, DC. The District is a walker’s town and every day I walked from Logan Circle through Dupont to get to work. I started to recognize other commuters who shared the sidewalks with me. It was one of these fellow walkers who pointed out to me how unhappy I appeared. As he walked past me at one edge of Dupont Circle he said “Hey Ms. Angry – smile! You’ll feel better!” I stopped dead in my tracks to assess myself. “What’s he talking about? I’m not angry,” I thought to myself. But then I caught my reflection in a nearby office window and saw what that stranger saw. My arms were folded tight across my chest and my face was frozen in a grimace. I had no idea that I looked so unpleasant and it was a powerful lesson to learn that I was exuding negative energy unintentionally.

The next day I decided to start my mornings with a smile. As you might expect, I felt less like a zombie and my daily commute came to life. I started to say good morning and wave at the commuters who I saw every day. The owner of the flower shop I walked past every morning tipped his hat to me and smiled back—this became his daily routine. One day he gave me a carnation, my favorite flower.

Three years later, I live in Los Angeles where no one walks. I still wake up and expose my pearly whites in front of a mirror. But now every morning I sit in bumper-to-bumper traffic on the 405 Freeway and smile at the driver in the next lane over. My ultimate goal is to start a wave of smiles on the highway. Sort of like the wave that fans start in the crowd at sporting events. I’d call it the “Freeway Smile Wave” and start it by positioning myself in the left-most lane and smiling at the driver to my right. That driver would smile to the driver to her immediate right and so on until the smile stretches across all 8 lanes. Of course I could only attempt this when traffic is at a stand-still, a regular part of the L.A. commute.

What could be better than starting the “Freeway Smile Wave?” Having it passed back to me. You know, similar to how break dancers pass their cool, slick moves back and for to each other? Does the “Freeway Smile Wave” seem like a ridiculous notion? Perhaps, but I hope it made you smile.