Short Stories about the Impact of a Shared Smile

Going For Smiles Stories #8 through #12

I started Going For Smiles (and Happiness367 before it, in 2016, which you can read about here) so that handwritten smile cards could give everyone a chance to be kind to one another. These stories contribute to the goal of gathering 5,000 shared-smile stories so we can prove that little gestures can have a butterfly-effect impact.

Story #8: Morning Hustle

Morning hustle!”, said a woman as she settled into a seat after an all-out sprint to catch the ferry. It was refreshing to see that she was still smiling despite the frenzied start to her day! And the receptive Canadian man sitting next to her was equally as smiley and friendly. Watching these two strangers chat made me wonder how much happier our commutes might be if we experienced more human connections? Or at least, felt more aware of our surroundings? … When we reached our destination, I walked over to pass along a smile card, and was happily welcomed with a smile too! There was a noticeable momentary skepticism in her voice though, as I said, “I think you might like this,” while extending the card towards her. “Ohh… okay…” she said. Quickly, I continued talking so I could explain why I thought she might like it.

“I hand-write these smile cards and give them out to all varieties of people. I noticed how your smile and personable nature already made that guy’s day, so that’s why I wanted to pass this along to you.” It took five strides for us to disembark the ferry, and for me to finish that sentence.

Enthusiastically, she responded with, “tell me more about this!” Both of our smiles broadened again, and in that moment, it somehow felt like I was on Shark Tank and one or more of the sharks just accepted my elevator pitch. Except it was less tense and the outcome of our interaction was simply human connection and an energizing smile.

“I believe we all look for ways to be kinder to one another, but don’t always know how. These smile cards give everyone a chance to do something kind by simply passing along the card to someone else. So, our hope is that people will continue passing along the smile cards and, through that, we can collectively turn up the volume on kindness”.

“That’s great! I’ll definitely pass this along,” she said right before she asked me what my name was. We introduced ourselves, shook hands, and thereby chipped away some of the anonymity that usually blends us into the sea of workday commuters.

As we parted ways, I couldn’t help but smile at how she was able to turn a frenzied morning commute into multiple shared smiles among strangers who now could refer to each other on a first-name basis.

Hope you had a great day, Jennifer! (real names have been changed)

Story #9: I’m always singing

I’ve been reading lots of books recently — Dark Matter, Bright-Sided, The Path to Purpose, A Man Called Ove, Happy Brain, Bird Box, etc. — and on one cold and snowy day this past week, I just wanted to spend my lunch break reading. At one point, I heard this beautiful Opera-like singing coming from behind my right shoulder. I turned around to see one of the security guards — a heavier set, middle aged man, who often greets people with an emphatic “gooooood morning!” while checking our ID as we shuffle into work. Now, during his lunch break, he was scrolling through his phone, lounging in a comfy chair, and singing softly to himself.

When I walked over to him with this smile card that read, “Music in the soul can be heard by the universe,” and commented, “you’ve got a really nice voice!” he responded with, “ohh thank you, I’m always singing”. He was appreciative of the card and how relevant it was to him in that moment. Before parting ways, I thanked him for always welcoming employees with a happy voice and let him know that it makes getting to work more enjoyable. I wanted to also say that I appreciate that he spends all day outside in the cold to make sure our building is secure. I wanted to ask how long he’s been working here. But those additional comments weren’t necessary.

Often times, the simplest of thoughts and acknowledgements can make all the difference.

His smile had already widened while I expressed thanks for the work he does. And as I walked away, I heard his beautiful Opera-like voice filling the air again.

Story #10: 34th Street Is In the Other Direction

Scenario setting: you’re on the subway, it’s not too busy, you overhear three middle aged men talking about the subway stops. “Weren’t we supposed to have passed 34th st?”, one of them asks. You’re already a few stops south of 34th on a downtown train. Do you: (a) assume that they’ve got a map and will figure it out; (b) go talk to them, rather than just assume, and let them know they have to switch trains if they want 34th st; © not even notice them b/c you’ve got headphones in on the subway; (d) notice them and hope someone answers because you’re just as confused by the subway?

A kind stranger chose option B — he wasn’t sure if they needed help, but rather than assume, he proactively made sure he would know they were going in the right direction. Fortunately, the three men were indeed on the right train. After the kind stranger sat back down in a seat across from me, I told him, “that’s very nice of you!” “Oh, thanks — just trying to help change the New Yorker stereotype,” he responded with a laugh in his voice. “You’re definitely making progress,” I responded after laughing.

“You might like this, too,” I said while extending an index card towards him which read, “KINDNESS EXISTS…” Initially I told him someone passed it along to me, and it was amazing to hear his enthusiasm as he sat forward in his seat and said “that’s so cool! Where were you? How did someone hand it to you?” No one had ever responded with such interest in the details! I was pleasantly surprised, but also unsure how to respond. Rather than spin a tale, I came clean and said, “actually, I hand write these cards myself and then give them out in hopes that people will continue passing them along. I sometimes say I found it because people are more open to it and less skeptical of what I’ll ask from them in return.” “That totally makes sense,” he said, which gave me a bit of relief. “That’s still really cool! I know exactly who I’m going to pass this along to. My friend just moved to LA, from NYC, but she’s very into these types of acts of kindness.” Coincidentally we both exited at the same subway station.

As we stood up the men who Kirk (names have been changed) helped with subway directions called out, “thanks for the help, man!” Kirk smiled back towards them and waved as the subway doors opened.

Story #11: My Students Are Learning About Kindness

I noticed her smiling in my direction as I sat down. A middle-aged woman with soft features and a kindness about her. Her smile sparked mine too… but then she started looking elsewhere and seemed one with her thoughts. A few minutes later I went to sit next to her, with a smile card in hand.

“Hi! I noticed you were smiling as I sat down-“;

“Oh yes, I’m always smiling,” she responded with a slight defensiveness in her voice.

For a moment I wondered why she felt defensive, but continued on quickly with words of encouragement, “I love to see people smile! I actually hand-write these smile cards and give them out to people so we can share smiles together”.

Her smile was now even more broad than before! “This is wonderful! I’m a school teacher, and we’re currently talking about kindness, so I’ll definitely give this to my kids!” she exclaimed. Then she continued, “you know, even if someone is having a bad day, a smile can help even just a little, and that makes a difference.” “That’s so true!!” I responded while reaching into my bag for another card, “here’s another one for your students with that exact message — it says: ‘If you find yourself having a crummy day, I hope this smile can help a bit’. You definitely sound like an amazing teacher!” She continued smiling as she looked at the second card and said, “thank you — I love it, and my kids do give me a lot to smile about.”

To all the teachers who positively influence the lives of their students, THANK YOU! And hope you’ll always have reasons to smile

Story #12: This Reminds Me

It was definitely a highlight to hear Daniel Libeskind — a Polish-American architect, artist, professor and set designer — speak in a fire-side chat setting. He passionately talked about the 9/11 memorial in NYC, his architectural marvels across the globe and how it’s important to listen to the ground because a building should be unique to the city and culture it lives in. The highlight of the day got even better when I shared a smile card with him, and he loved it! After I looked at the card and his name simultaneously, I realized it was pretty clever to give the smile card with the quote, “in a world where we can be anything, let’s be kind” to Daniel Libeskind. He signed his book for me and then he shared an observation while we chatted a bit longer. My smile cards, distributed with the hope that people will continue passing along the smiles and turning up the volume on kindness, loosely reminded him of Hans Fallada’s novel. It was based on the true story of a husband and wife’s handcrafted postcards during the 1940’s in Berlin. It’s a story I otherwise might never have learned of!

And it’s an example of the interesting conversations we can share if we open ourselves to talking with people, regardless of how famous or regular they are, and share a smile.

I hope you enjoyed these stories! You can expect many more shared smile stories as we work towards the goal of 5,000 stories :) Hope you’ll enjoy following along and witnessing the butterfly-effect impact a smile can have.

Thank you to all the untold stories of kindness in the world. I hope our paths with cross one day! If you would like to share your story, please email goingforsmiles@gmail.com . I hope you always find a reason to smile!

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