The Smile That Might Save Someone’s Life

I read a post on Facebook a few days ago that stuck in my mind. This is it:

204. I Noticed That...

Now, I don’t know if this incident ever happened or if this person just made it up (we all know Facebook is a repository for trite sayings and urban legends) but it’s the point behind it that struck me.

I live in what was once a small seaside town. It’s now significantly larger, but it’s still small enough that when I’m out walking, passers-by will usually say hello, nod, or comment on the weather. And, over the Christmas period, a lot of the people I passed said “Happy Christmas” or “Happy New Year”, and I thought this was lovely. It sounds silly but it makes you feel like maybe the world is not such a bad place after all.

So, I can understand how someone who is feeling alone, depressed, and perhaps even suicidal might react – however briefly – to interactions with other people. Even if it is only a nod or a hello. I imagine someone who feels that way feel like they’re locked away in their own private world with no contact with other people. To actually interact with someone might let a crack of light in, even if only for a moment. Perhaps if there were enough of those moments, it might make a difference.

Ironically, it’s in the bigger cities – the places that people would feel most alone – that it’s hardest to do this. People move at a frenetic pace, ignore all those around them, don’t make eye contact. But, maybe we should try it. A nod or a smile to a passing stranger. Maybe it won’t make any difference at all. Probably not. But, you never know.

Might as well start the New Year on a positive note.

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5 thoughts on “The Smile That Might Save Someone’s Life

  1. A few years ago I traveled around Europe with spiritual teacher Wayne Dyer. In one of his lectures he said the following:

    “The positive effect of kindness on the immune system and on the increased production of serotonin in the brain has been proved on research studies. Serotonin is a naturally occurring substance in the body that makes us feel more comfortable, peaceful, and even blissful. In fact the role of most anti-depressants is to stimulate the serotonin production to alleviate depression. Research has shown that a simple act of kindness directed toward another improves the functioning of the immune system and stimulates production of serotonin in both the recipient of the kindness and the person extending the kindness. Even more amazing is that persons observing the act of kindness have similar beneficial results. Imagine this: kindness extended, received, or observed beneficially impacts the physical health and feelings of everyone involved.”
    ― Wayne Dyer

    I truly believe that an act of kindness can save a life. Thank you for the wonderful reminder.

  2. A smile–an acknowledgment of some kind that you’re there, that you’re human, that your and the other person’s paths have crossed. Yes, I can see how that might make all the difference. I was brought up in a place where smiling to strangers is not just natural but the polite thing to do. When I moved to Curaçao, I found it unsettling that no one smiles. Not even, or only rarely, at service counters or shops. Locals tend to have a chip on their shoulders–remnants of slavery bitterness, justifiable I suppose–that translates into treating every human exchange as a power struggle. For a while, after my smiles weren’t being returned, I thought, Fine, and stopped. But then I realized that this not smiling was changing me at a deeper level. So I went on smiling. Because it’s in the giving, not the receiving, that the pleasure lies. Because even when they don’t return it, or when I get mostly scorn and grimaces, there’s the few that do a double-take and–voilá!–smile back. And that person will have a happier moment, maybe even a happier day, because of me.

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