It was a painful end to a painful day as I exited my final class. I walked through the school quad, head down, pondering the absurdity of the day’s events. It was just like every other day, but somehow, a combination of events gone wrong had left me in a seemingly inescapable pit of disaster. I looked up after a while, naturally, to see a girl no more than a few feet away from me look up too. I did not know who she was, nor do I ever think I will. But one thing that will remain with me was that unique smile she gave to me merely because we happened to be staring at each other at the same particular time in the day. This smile, in turn, caused me to smile, and unsurprisingly, took my mind off my horrible day for that instant in time. I believe that a smile is worth more than you can imagine. I believe that a single second of happiness can override a day of misery.
What is it in a smile that makes it so powerful? What is it in that momentary clenching of 13 muscles that produces a signal to another human so powerful that for a moment in time, all other emotions are forgotten? I’m not talking about the smile that comes sarcastically, or the one that must be done in order to be polite in response to a very badly placed joke. I’m talking about that pure and innocent, undeniably genuine smile that often results between two strangers.
There is no word in any language that has the same exact pronunciation, spelling, and exact definition in all other languages known to man. But a smile, on the other hand, is universal. A French tourist travelling to Indonesia can be greeted with the same smile from natives that a high school student receives from another while momentarily looking up from the ground. The smile is common to all human beings. It is only natural that we smile, as it involves a treasured emotion that does nothing more than cause a series of complex neurotransmissions leading to a single end result: happiness. We smile because we enjoy it. We like being smiled at it. We like receiving a smile from another person. And we particularly enjoy the reciprocated smile. We are, in the grand scheme of things, all humans.
So, the next time you bump into that friend you remember seeing sometime during middle school who you lost connection with sometime during the summer transition between 8th grade and high school, share your smile. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but I truly believe that a smile is ineffable.