I can’t remember where I first heard it before—or even when I first heard it, for that matter. I just know that for as long as I’ve been introduced to the idea, I have struggled with keeping a smile on my face to pass on to the occasional stranger who, like me, is just trying to make it through the day.
It’s not that I feel too jaded to believe that something as small and ordinary as the act of smiling can make a better place of this world, or at the very least, lighten up the day of the next person (if not even mine) – because I do, I really do. Call me a hopeless romantic if you want, but I still believe that if everyone decides to just lighten up a bit and show a little more kindness to their neighbors, this year could still turn out for the better.
But while it sounds so nice in theory, it’s still so much more difficult to practice. Especially this year, which seems to be getting the consensus of being awarded the worst year today’s generation would have ever witnessed. Because how do you smile after being woken up by that untimely alarm after a mere three hours of sleep, coming from last night’s overtime? How do you smile when the shower heater decides to be uncooperative on a cold December morning? How do you turn up the little corners of your mouth at the sight of the growing mountain of dirty dishes that you don’t even have the spare time to take care of? When what greets you in the morning is the prospect of another two-hour commute just to get to work? Or when it suddenly rains and you realize that for some reason, you left your umbrella on top of the kitchen counter?
And to top it all off, how do you smile when instead of getting a well-deserved break, even just ten minutes of scrolling through social media can already drown you in a decade’s worth of bad news?
Well, you just do.
You sit back, you close your eyes, you try to relax, and for maybe a short minute or two, you take a series of deep breaths and remember that while you feel like the list of all the growing misfortunes of the world being thrown at you just keeps getting longer and longer, there could be another simultaneous list growing of all the things that would make it all worth your while.
I may be running the risk of sounding too self-righteous here, and even of making the woes of this world seem too simplistic, but while it might take way more for you to recognize the little things that can brighten up your day, I will take it upon myself to claim that they’re there, they exist, and they’re just waiting at the sidelines for you let them take center stage in your mind.
I am not kidding when I say that it will definitely be much harder to focus on the good, but sometimes, all it takes is a smile from that little kid passing you by on the sidewalk, or seeing someone help an old lady cross the street, or even just the sudden whiff of the ylang-ylang plant you regularly pass by as you walk home from work.
Because bad things are not going to stop from happening. Tomorrow’s headlines may even be worse than today’s. Weather reports will fail you time and again and ruin the outfit you carefully chose the night before, or cancel the basketball game you’ve been looking forward to all week.
But whether you decide to let that ruin your day still depends on how you decide to take on the bad news; and how you shape your disposition from that can only affect how much of a ray of sunshine you can also be to others.
So share your umbrella.
Treat your boss to a beer (or chocolates!).
Clean as you go and tick another box off of that restaurant waiter’s to-do list.
Say thank you to that tricycle driver.
Hold the door open for the next person.
Offer your seat to that old lady on the bus.
And pass that smile forward.
You’re definitely getting one in return.