Friday, December 28, 2012

Just Give Me A Smile

The mere act of smiling may cause you and the people around you to be happier. [fn 1] The Declaration of Independence stated that all people “are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights … life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” No one is guaranteed that they will be happy, but we have the opportunity to actively pursue happiness.

When we see a smiling happy baby, we are immediately cued to be happier ourselves. Two days ago I was traveling by train back to Chicago. As soon as we walked into the train station, we heard a toddler crabbing, not the cry of pain or discomfort, but the cry of “why in the world are we waiting in this line?” We saw a big line of people waiting to get to the track for our train and so we went to the end of the line. The crying toddler was directly in front of us. I was thinking, “I wish that the toddler would shut up.” I wondered what I can do to save the crowd from suffering. The father was trying to comfort the child without success. I was not sure if the mother was there or not.

The poor father was not succeeding. Then my librarian-teacher training kicked in. Many times on in shul (synagogue) I have found children with sour faces and asked them if they cold smile for me. It usually works. They sometimes just give “fake” smiles and sometimes even laugh and have “real” smiles. I approached the toddler, being careful not to undermine or excite the father and said, “Excuse me, excuse me, I don’t have enough smiles. Would you please give me a smile?” The child was so surprised that she stopped kvetching. She stopped annoying her father and those waiting in line. I reached into my bag and gave her a copy of my colorful business card and told her, “I don’t have enough smiles, please send me some of your extra ones.” She played with the card as if it was a toy for the next five minutes until it was time to go on the train. I told the people in line, “It’s OK I used to be a children’s librarian.”

I have no idea if their final destination was Chicago. I did not hear any crying on the train. No one said anything to me including the parents.

It is always better to wear a smile, than a frown. I only wish that I could have steered her to a book.


1. Articles that deal with smiling.

Philippen, Philipp B., Frank C. Bakker, Raoul R. D. Oudejans, and Rouwen Canal-Bruland. 2012. "The Effects of Smiling and Frowning on Perceived Affect and Exertion While Physically Active." Journal Of Sport Behavior 35, no. 3: 337-353.  In this study Phillppen et.el. demonstrated that physical facial expressions of smiles can help be a motivator in physical (sports) activity.

Baumgardner, Jessica. "Try These Two Minute Stress Solutions." Prevention 64, no. 12 (December 2012): 100-107.  In this article Baumgardner say that smiling can reduce stress.

Kraft, Tara L., and Sarah D. Pressman. "Grin and Bear It: The Influence of Manipulated Facial Expression on the Stress Response." Psychological Science (Sage Publications Inc.) 23, no. 11 (November 2012): 1372-1378.  Kraft reports that smiling helped reduce stress.  Subjects had lower heart rates.

Nagle, Jacklyn E., and Stanley L. Brodsky. 2012. "Good Witnesses Don't Smile (Much)." Jury Expert 24, no. 5: 18-20.  Nagle talks about the proper time and circumstance for a smile in court room.    Inappropriate smiles will make the testimonies less likely to be believed.  A polite smile shows sincerity and credibility.   

Comments received

Dec. 30, 2012
Good, smiling is a healer.
Posted by Lillian Oats 


Barb said...

How wonderful that you reached out to this struggling family. What a great heart you have. Thanks for sharing the story and the resources. Happy New Year!

Libbie56 said...

My mother always said it took fewer muscles to smile than to frown. Guess I am lazy. I smile a lot and it is amazing how many do in return!

Libbie56 said...

My mother always said it took fewer muscles to smile than frown. Guess I am lazy, I smile a lot and it is amazing what comes back to me. Good job, Daniel, spread more of those!