It costs nothing; you always have it with you; you never run out of it, and it multiplies when it is shared – a smile! Showing milk teeth, toothless gums or a dimple and lighting up the whole face, to me – it’s the best gift you can give each day to your loved ones and total strangers.
The idea to write about a smile as a gift occurred to me more than two years ago when I drove my daughter in a stroller and watched the effect her smiling face had on passers-by. At that time she would smile at literally everyone, and hardly anyone could resist her. Strangers smiled back, then raised their eyes and exchanged smiles with me, too. After such an exchange, my face would remain radiant for a good while, and I’m sure those passers-by also felt their mood had improved.
Why am I writing about it now?
Several weeks ago, sitting on a bus, I passed a girl travelling by car. I noticed her because she had darker skin and a dressing on her wrist. When I saw that she was watching me too, I smiled at her. She returned the smile. I smiled even broader, and she kept her eyes fastened on me. When my bus moved, she waved at me spontaneously, and I waved back. That’s when she turned to her grandma, excited, to tell her about me. On the other side of the crossroads, our vehicles levelled again, and I saw that the girl was looking out for me as eagerly as I was for her. I had never seen her before, and I will probably never see her again, yet owing to this exchange of cordial smiles I felt as happy as if I had met a good friend.
Children smile without worrying about the consequences. Infants do it instinctively. This helps them survive because people return smiles reflexively, releasing “happy hormones”.
What about adults?
We are not afraid to smile at an unknown child. Yet we do fear to smile at adults. I also feel uneasy about smiling to strangers without a reason. After all, it’s not the same as having a radiant face. A real smile involves eye contact, which requires courage. In my culture making such contact isn’t that common. When someone smiles at me, I suspect it is either an acquaintance or a swindler.
There are, however, situations, in which your smile won’t be perceived as suspicious because you need to start a conversation anyway. At the reception desk or a counter, your face expression makes a difference: it can make a positive or a negative impression. Your interlocutor may bristle before you utter your first sentence, or adopt a friendly attitude and treat you with kindness because you have lifted his or her spirits with your smile.
Maybe it’s worth trying to smile this very autumn?
When it rains, share your umbrella. When you deal with strangers, greet them with a smile. And when it really is impossible, or you really aren’t up to it, at least smile at children – all of them They will appreciate it and reciprocate. And, perhaps, the smile will stick to your face, and instead of remembering about it, you will keep smiling without any effort on a regular basis.
– Keep smiling also while talking on the phone. You may not see it, but the facial expression is perfectly audible, and non-verbal communication accounts for over 90% of the message received!