On a week in which I spent what felt like an eternity ‘Up in the Air’ — it was a smile at the start of the week that gave me hope.
You know that feeling when you see someone else smiling and it immediately makes you feel happy? It fills your heart with joy. It’s almost unexplainable but it captures your attention — stops you in your tracks — brings you right into the here and now.
I think smiles are a gift — the most precious gift in the world.
As I traveled from one city to another, it struck me more than once that there’s something incredibly important, almost mesmerizing and yes, powerful, about how a simple smile can change your day — for the BETTER!
I smile A LOT! I love smiling — even on a bad day — I genuinely love to see people light up. It makes me happy to see other people happy.
And no, I’m not always Little Miss Sunshine. I have challenging days, very challenging days, tough meetings, impossible schedules and ridiculous deadlines. But I’m astonished how, on one of “those” days, when I jump into a taxi or grab an Uber on the way to yet another airport, a driver’s sympathetic smile — the smile of a complete stranger — makes everything better. Stress dissipates a little. I’m suddenly a little less overwhelmed. And in that moment I know that everything’s going to be all right.
All because of a smile.
Just yesterday, after checking-in at the airport, I stepped into the screening area, and faced the always challenging security line, along with hundreds of other travelers. But the TSA agent, Jackson, manning the queue was an absolute delight — joking with folks about having to unpack their bags, thanking everyone for a job well done, and most of all, smiling the whole time. His sunny disposition took everyone by surprise, and what could have been a line of tired, cranky travelers became a jovial group of human beings on a journey to a better mood — some even laughing out loud.
It was amazing to witness. And yes, it made me smile.
I had a similar experience after boarding my Delta flight from Washington to Minneapolis. Before takeoff, the Captain, Randy Dee Taylor, exited the cockpit, grabbed the microphone, as he stood in the aisle, to warn us over the intercom that the turbulence we were about to experience was nothing more than driving a beaten down Ford F50 pickup truck through potholes and that, if we really needed to exit the plane, there were eight secret passages that we could easily find in flight. He was hilarious, and the passengers responded with uproarious laughter and applause. The flight attendant then came down the aisle and jokingly said, “ok folks here we go, I’m the boring one,” smiling.
Laughter, kindness, happiness, joy, and smiles all around.
Smiles warm us — in a world that can be negative to a fault, terrifying at times, and especially worrying for moms like me, I wonder will my daughter grow up in a world where joy and happiness are cherished, acknowledged and prioritized as much as sleep, food and friendships. Will she be happy being herself? Ignore the judgement and mental traps of comparing how many likes she received on Instagram or how many people she connects with on Snapchat. Will she smile everyday just because? Will she lift her head long enough from the device in her hands to experience a smile? Right now it is her smile that fills my heart with abundant joy. It is her laughter, her bliss, her love of life that truly is as good as it gets.
I recently read that the neurotransmitters called endorphins are released when you smile — they make you feel good — and they also work when you’re “faking” a smile. Yes, a forced smile, it turns out, is as beneficial as the real thing. Who knew?
Because we live in a world in which creating the perfect Instagram post, or counting your Facebook “likes,” can send us into an existential crisis.
Where the national climate is one in which folks feel they must be “polarizing” to get noticed.
Where denigrating others is business-as-usual and politics-as-usual.
Where questioning the legitimacy of someone else’s values in a public forum is the acceptable norm.
And where, sadly, no matter how powerful you are, and how big a bully pulpit you may stand behind, you still feel alone.
Every single one of these realities is even further proof that we should bring more laughter, more joy, more random acts of kindness into the world. And above all, dance like no one is watching. Love like you have never been hurt. Sing like no one is listening. And more than anything, smile. Just smile. It could change someone’s life!
P.S. As I was editing this in flight from Minneapolis to New York, I met this super cool 25 year old kid sitting across the aisle from me. He heard me talking about tariffs and was so excited that we geeked out. Before we knew it we were talking agriculture, on-farm practices, the future of food and all kinds of other nerdy things — the best part — he had a GREAT smile!