The other day I had my passport photo taken, retaken and retaken again. You see there cannot be a hint of a smile, and for some reason, even though my pearly whites were securely hidden, something was causing my photo to be rejected time after time. If it hadn’t been for my son’s photos on the exact same camera, with the exact same ‘passport photo technology’ on the very first occasion being so readily accepted with a blazing green computer tick, I would have assumed there was something wrong with the camera, or the associated technology.
With the camera lens directed towards me, it was very difficult to resist the automated temptation to smile, and even though I was not consciously smiling back at the camera, I did feel that my eyes, like a gentle hum, were slightly smiling. It was something that I had hoped to conceal, as those mug shots are so unappealing, but there was no tricking this technology. Bemused by this I could not help feeling that, in the search for my true identity, the computer assessed these mug shots and said. ‘No, that just does not look like her’. In the end I acquiesced and did as I was instructed to do, draining the smile from every aspect of my face until finally I was rewarded with the photo that was expected; dull, lifeless, functional.
Smiling to me is the essence of love, humanity and compassion. There is nothing richer than walking down the street, sharing a smile with a passerby and in turn being rewarded with a full-bodied smile. It’s such a giving thing to do, yet takes so little effort. Smiles are effervescently loaded with boundless joy, pepping up all those that come into contact with one, providing happiness-inspired fuel to pass onto the next person making our day, and hopefully theirs, just that little bit more joyful. It’s such an open and selfless act and I often ponder how the world could be transformed, with random acts of conscious smiling. As part of a bid to improve community connectedness, a few years ago the Maribyrnong Police department ran an innovative smile campaign to astounding success. Whilst more recently at an Association for Applied Therapeutic Humor Conference in San Diego last year, one of the activities was a ‘Smile Squad’, where a group of slightly mad and far too happy people, carted swags of cardboard cutout smiles on sticks, and loaded themselves with supplies of smiley faced sweets to hand out. You probably have figured out by now that I was one of those slightly mad and far too happy people!
As one large smiley movement we waltzed down to the port area, smiling at as many people as we could, handing out paraphernalia to willing, and some not so willing people of all ages, ethnicity and financial means. Some distanced themselves from accepting both smiles and ‘fake smiles’, yet the vast majority embraced us, leaving us with a smile and buoyed mood. In the hour or so that we were on ‘smiley walkabout’ we met an array of people ranging from; policeman, tourists, homeless people, children with their families, protesters, all so different, yet with one shared smile, became a united force. Two smile exchanges were particularly memorable; one with two San Diego policemen who took time to put their arms around us for a cheesy grinned photo whilst patrolling a permanent fixture of protesters against US navy ship presence in San Diego. The other, was with a toothless homeless person, bearing a shoddy piece of wilted cardboard with the words written in looped scrawl; “My wife’s lawyer was better than mine”. The mood on the streets sweetly transformed to one more akin to a street festival or carnival. People stopped to have their photos taken with us, children skipped away with their smiley sweets; young lovers posed kissing each other with those delicious cardboard lips. On our way back to the hotel, on a happiness high and already in premature reminiscent mode, we were amazed at how many people that we had passed earlier in the day, excitedly waved at us and flung an array of genuine smiles our way.
Smiles are such a powerful force and I am so grateful that I live in Melbourne, where on the whole smiles are given and accepted freely and willingly. One can never play down the effect that a smile may have on someone’s day. Who knows, it might be the only smile that they have received today, yesterday, maybe in a week, or even sadder, even longer than that. A smile inherently says I acknowledge you, and all is well with the world, and when it is reciprocated and shared, for a momentary lapse of time, a bridge is constructed joining two people together in perpetuity. So don’t waste opportunities to spread the joy that is so perfectly encapsulated in a smile. Go forth and smile.
In love and laughter, Ros J