Smile

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The air is pregnant with a potpourri of piss, weed, barbecue and Banana Boat sunscreen.  It’s June, and if you reside in Pacific Beach, forget about parking close to home – the entire world is on vacation in your city.

A homeless man’s shouts warn me of an impending Apocalypse, as a beach-cruising tourist almost mows me down.  And 20 feet down the boardwalk, a little girl’s gaze meets mine.

She’s 11, and she’s doing backflips off the waist-high wall which separates the beach from the boardwalk.  She glances my way to confirm I’m watching.  As I pass, I clap for her – giving her a hearty round of applause.  You would have thought I had just given this girl a Golden Ticket, because she beamed at me with a smile that stuck on her face.  It was the. greatest. smile; the highlight of my day.

I believe there are small things each of us can do to profoundly help others in our daily interactions.  Kind words, smiles, and random acts of goodwill that will serve to help us, as John Wooden urged, make our days into masterpieces.

People have said that I read people well.  And in the conversations I have or hear, what I pick up on is struggle.  Lurking behind the veneer of normalcy, I sense there are things people want to say, but won’t.  Concealed by the curtains of “Oh, I’m fine,” friends and family hide dark and painful words.  Suffering is part of life, and each of us wages internal battles.  Notwithstanding the boastings of Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest – all of us get slapped in the face by life.   We are all stabbed with heart-wrenching, equilibrium-exploding, world-toppling experiences.  Oftentimes, all we’re facing is the psychological distress of our own minds – the swords of doubt, fear, and uncertainty.  So?  So we have two choices.  We can shoulder through these things alone; or we can fight through them together.

For months I have been trying to figure how to make people want to smile at each other.  Literally.  I think about it a lot.  Why have I thought about this?  Because life can be very hard, and we shouldn’t go through it alone.  We are not meant to be this isolated.  Today, in 2013, we as individuals are more isolated than we have ever been.  And Dale Carnegie said that in order to make someone do something you want them to do, you have to make them want to do it.  I want you to smile at other people.  Doing this would make our city, our world, a better place.  So here are five reasons why it will benefit you to smile at others:

1.  There’s a prettyyyy good chance you had braces, and those were effin’ expensive.  Don’t you want to get your moneys worth?  

2.  It takes more muscles to frown than it does to smile.  Let’s not be over-achievers here. 

3.  The more you smile, the longer you’ll live.  It’s science.  

4.  Smiling makes you look more attractive to other people.  Cue Pet Shop Boys: “Smiling is why you’re hot.  Smiling is why you’re hot…”   

5.  Smiling reduces the level of stress-enhancing hormones like cortisol.  Want to be happier?  Pick your poison: Prozac or smiling.   

There is power inherent in your smile, and beyond what it can do for you, think of what it can do for others.

In all the cultures in all the countries around the world, everyone understands a smile.  Children smile as many as 400 times per day, while should aim for over 20.  Facial feedback modifies the processing of emotional content in the brain in a way that helps us feel better when we smile.  Smiling stimulates our brain reward mechanism in a way that even chocolate cannot match.  Lots of smiling makes you healthier.  There.  Lots of reasons why you should flash those pearly whites.  And simply put, the fake it until you make it principle applies here.  Are you having a bad day at work?  Smile.  Even if you don’t want to.  It will help.  It will make you feel better.

When I started this project, I envisioned to become a bit like a movement.  My involvement would be great, but others would enable the ideas to spread.  What if we could change San Diego?  What if we could make it like Texas or Wisconsin where people say “Hi” on the streets?  What if, what if?  Nelson Mandela said, “It always seems impossible until it is done.”  I can write and tell you to do things, but without others’ help, I can’t take this very far.  With your help, we can move mountains.  So.  Will you help me?

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