When I was in my late forties or early fifties, I don’t recall which, I was sitting in our dining room reading a rather uninteresting book. I placed the book on the table, removed my glasses, leaned back in my chair and closed my eyes. I did not, however, fall asleep as I thought I might. Instead, I drifted toward a meditative experience, concentrating on what I did as a child. Returning to the here and now, a provocative thought came to me—-why am I here? Not here in California, but here on earth. Why was I put here? After all, I haven’t invented anything that would make peoples’ lives easier, nor was I about to. I haven’t discovered a medication that would cure anything. Why was I put here? The answer was illusive and took quite awhile to come to me, but when it did it seemed ridiculously simple: The only possible reason was to help other human beings.

The difficult part was the method I might use to help other people. I was just a working person, with a family, trying to make ends meet. I had no particular skills. I did not have much to give. It became apparent that tangible items were out. If I had anything to give it had to be me, to give something of myself.

Have you ever noticed that it might be an absolutely beautiful day, the sky is blue and the clouds are white and fluffy, and people walk toward you and the expression on some of their faces look as if they have lost their best friends? I am sure you have. That brought the question to mind, “How might I change how they feel?” I can’t run up to them and offer them a hug. But, I can smile at them!” I smiled at the next person I saw and lo and behold, she smiled back! That was the beginning of how I felt I might achieve my new goal, it was great! It didn’t require an investment and I could do it almost anywhere! An added benefit was the feeling I got.

Not long after I had started my smile campaign, I met a religious scholar. We spoke of many things (I mostly listened), and I finally told him the story above. At the end I added, “they probably think I’m nuts.” “To the contrary” he said, “for a few seconds or minutes, you have taken them away from their problems or troubles and help them see the beauty around them. No, they don’t think you’re nuts.”

The moral of the story is the power that one can have to change someone’s day with just a smile. Thanks to the powers that be, between then and now, our situation has changed and we can help in other ways. But, I am now eighty five and still smiling at people with much the same result.

—-Don W

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