Thought Catalog
March 31, 2014

Why You Should Smile At A Stranger

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What is the issue?

A slight wrinkle in the cheek. A slight pull of the facial muscles. An upturn of the lips. A moment. Just a single moment.

A smile.

The majority of the time, we do it without even processing it. It’s automatic, directly correlated with our emotions and moods. But sometimes we have to try a little harder and dig a little deeper as we command our brain to tell our mouth to smile. And that’s okay. But we should probably all smile some more, automatic or not.

Have you ever had one of those days when absolutely everything is going wrong? The weather is awful, your coffee machine is broken, your car won’t start, and you just sit there and contemplate what else could possibly go wrong? Maybe the love of your life broke up with you an hour ago, maybe you just lost your best friend, or maybe it’s just an off day. But we’ve all been there. The last thing you feel like doing? Smiling. But then you find yourself out in our hectic world and a stranger is walking towards you and they throw a smile your way. Oh. What? Did that just happen? You have to stand there and think about it for just a moment. Because how could anyone possibly be happy on a day like this?

But alas, happiness is everywhere. We all have bad days, but we all have good days, too. That person who’s smiling at you might have just secured their dream job, or maybe they just fell in love, or maybe they’re just excited to be alive today. Who knows. But their tiny gesture of happiness instantaneously reminds you that the world is more than an accumulation of bad days. The world is random and it’s scattered and it’s entirely unpredictable. Your bad day is someone else’s great day. Relish in that. Share that. That gentle smile is an offering: take some of my happiness, I can see that you need it, and it’s the least I can do.

You’re reminded, ever so slightly, how simple acts of kindness can be. You don’t need to leave cheery notes in every book you rent from the library (although, that is an awesome pastime), you don’t need to buy a coffee a week for a stranger, and you don’t need to pay for someone’s groceries. Can you? Sure. Should you? Personal preference. Is it wonderful and admirable and going to make you feel lovely? Absolutely. There’s all sorts of random acts of kindness we can do. But there’s one that so many of us tend to overlook: a smile.

Just smile. At a stranger. Not once a week or once a month. Every. Single. Day. Or maybe even more frequently than that. How many times have you been out at the grocery store and you notice that man or woman looking entirely defeated? Smile. Have you ever been at the doctor when someone walks out looking absolutely shell-shocked? Smile. It costs no money. It takes hardly any time. And it’s good for our own souls as well as the souls of those around us.

So smile. Smile hard and smile often. You don’t need to know everyone’s story and you don’t need to understand why someone’s feeling the way that they are, all you need to do is remind them that there is still happiness in this world. It’s still attainable. And one bad day is just that: one bad day. There are so many more great ones to come.

I hope that one day I grow to be old and wise with a hundred and twenty wrinkles on my face. Evidence of a life long loved, enjoyed, and cherished. I can’t think of any future desire more attainable.

Here’s to smiles, to wrinkles, to happiness, and to reminders that our world is bigger than our own perceptions. Give someone the smallest, yet arguably greatest, gift today: smile at ’em. Smile big, smile proud, and don’t ever stop. TC mark

featured image – Brittani Lepley