How powerful is a smile?

I’m going to walk to the bridge. If one person smiles at me on the way, I will not jump.

In the 70’s a man left this note on his bureau.  After the walk from his home to the Golden Gate bridge, he jumped.

While we cannot know if he willingly caught people’s eye on his way, he consciously wrote that a smile would change his actions.  Is it possible that this 2 second act can create change for another and ourselves?

How often do we go about our busy schedules unaware of those around us?  We may be intent to get our grocery shopping done quickly, avoiding eyes with the veteran holding a sign at a stoplight, or involved in whatever our lives are full with at that moment.

What would it take to engage the 12 facial muscles used in smiling?  What might it create?

When we smile at someone, what is happening at a soul level? Could it communicate “You are a person just like me; I recognize and respect you;  I value you.”? Are we making a human connection that closes our separateness, even for a moment?  (Robert I. Simon)

I have a practice of actively greeting those that cross my path.  Most often it is with a smile and a hello.  If I am able, I like to ask how someone’s day is going, intent on really listening to their response.  While it’s simple, I enjoy interacting and seeing how people respond.  Often I see a glimmer of surprise, followed by a genuine smile in return.

Perhaps smiles are contagious?

Note: Every culture has their own interpretation of how connection is formed. If not with a smile, perhaps there is another way of recognizing another’s intrinsic value?

Just a Smile and a Hello on the Golden Gate Bridge by Robert I. Simon for The American Journal of Psychiatry, VOL. 164, No. 5
Jumpers by Tad Friend for The New Yorker Smile


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