Can You Change the World With a Simple Smile?

We Are All Connected

One chilly morning the kids and I were waving goodbye to Ben as he walked to the train station.

As he disappeared up the street, one of our neighbours was coming home from her morning walk and stopped to say hello. She made comment about how cute we looked, huddled together on the front steps. (I’m quite certain she was talking about the kids specifically – I had magnificent bedhead and BettyBoop pyjamas on). Then she said something that amazed me.

“You know, I get so much joy from watching your family.”

A few weeks earlier she had watched us playing in the autumn leaves on the front lawn.

“I called my mum to tell her what I was watching. It made my day and hers.”

We Are All Connected

I found it incredible that we live so close to this lady, but had no idea we impacted her life at all. Aside from the occasional chat across the fence, a friendly wave, a “Merry Christmas”, we are essentially strangers.

And yet there it was, undeniable proof that we are all connected. Not only to our neighbours, friends and relatives, but to the ever-widening circles that ripple out from them. We can and do make a difference in other people’s lives. We may never know it, but our interactions leave an unmistakable imprint on others. Just as their interactions impact us.

Yes, this is a small story about a small interaction. But sometimes these small moments can mean the most – even if we aren’t aware of it.

This week, think about the impact these small gestures could make on a stranger:

  • A genuine smile given freely may brighten a lonely man’s morning.
  • Directly looking in the eyes of your friend as you ask, “How are you?” may be all she needs to feel needed, heard and loved.
  • Comforting a flustered mother with a gentle, “Don’t worry, we’ve all been there,” may be enough for her to get through a difficult day without losing it.
  • Offering kindness where someone may have expected anger may help improve their self-esteem.

Or, these gestures may have no impact at all. But you do them, you offer them, you carry them out because you understand that we are all connected. And we simply never know when something we do or say could make an enormous difference in someone’s life.

“We shall never know all the good that a simple smile can do.”

Mother Teresa


When was the last time a stranger impacted positively on your life? Have you paid it forward yet?


17 Responses to Can You Change the World With a Simple Smile?

  1. How true and how sweet. We think that we don’t interact with people, but in so many ways…we do. Great thoughts for today.

    • Thanks, Alysha. It’s so easy to think we operate in a bubble. But I find when I do open myself up and see that everyone is living a life as big (or bigger) than mine, it shifts perspective and makes me feel more connected to people. Thanks for making my day. :)

  2. Very true. For the past few years I have made an effort to compliment perfect strangers whenever I think something flattering about them. Like when I am on the subway and a woman is carrying a purse I really like, I will just tell her I love it as I get off the train. People just light up when a random stranger says something nice to them.

    • I love that, Andrea. An unexpectedly kind word from a stranger can lift someone up for the day, square their shoulders, brighten their smile. It’s such a beautiful gift to give someone. :)

  3. Great post. As things are ticking alsong quite nicely for me at the moment Im trying to make a point of saying hello to people that other usually ignore (for example tramps or disabled people), the old me would void eye contact when I passed them in the street, the current me looks them in the eye, smiles and says hello and 9 out of 10 of them say hello back. It make both of us feel good. :o)

    • Awesome, Jo! 9 out of 10 is a damn fine ratio of days improved! Nice work on changing the world – yours and theirs. :)

  4. Lovely post. I am a 60 year old Nanny to 6 grand-daughters and I remember not too long ago I was in the line going through the checkout in a local supermarket. A little boy sitting in his Mum’s trolley was screaming his head off during a tantrum and his screaming seemed to go on for what seemed a very long time. His young Mum was valiantly trying to shush him and keep it together in the face of such adversity obviously wishing the floor would open up and swallow Junior or her I’m not sure whom. I smiled at her and said “Things will improve as he gets older’. She smiled weakly back at me. Meanwhile the young Checkout Chicks were sniggering together behind their hands about the goings on with the Mum and her son and I said ‘Unless you have had a child who throws tantrums (and yes I have personal experience…a lot of personal experience with my son) you can never know just how she feels’. I watched the young Mum walk out of the supermarket with her head held a little higher even though Junior was still in her trolley and yep still screaming.

    • That is so lovely, Merryl. I can tell you (from experience) that your kindness will stay with that young mum a lot longer than her feeling of frustration or embarrassment. You definitely made a difference in her day, and likely her life. Next time she is faced with someone in a difficult situation, you can bet she will think of the kindess you showed to her, and she will pay it forward. So hats off for changing the world! :)

  5. One day I was out pulling weeds in the front lawn. “Lawn” is actually a somewhat generous term for the collection of crabgrass and dandelions that inhabit the space between my house and the street. Anyhow, a man was walking down the street, and I was just sure he was cursing me under his breath for my refusal to use weed killers, and allowing a few of those suckers to go to seed spreading their evil spawn throughout the neighborhood.

    But when he reached my house, he smiled and said. “That’s the way to do it. The planet thanks you!” He totally made my day!

  6. The last time a stranger impacted my life was a few weeks back when I was doing a massive sale/donation of my stuff to prepare for soon moving into a smaller space (an RV).

    I put it up on Craigslist and had over 90 pieces of clothing up for $1 each. Then I had a basket of clothing up for free. I had a guy contact me for the basket of clothing. He told me that a dear friend of his lost everything in storage and he would like to take that basket off of our hands. I gladly told him I’d hold it for him. Yet I felt terrible for his friend and talked to my husband, while he was on his way to pick up the basket, and we made the decision to give the man all of our clothing, including the 90+ pieces we had for sale.

    When he showed up he put $40 on our counter and thanked us for the free basket. I told him he didn’t have to and that they were free, but he insisted. Then I told him that my husband and I decided that we’d really like to support his friend in need of something clothing. So I bought him to our empty room, filled only with bags and bags of clothes and asked if he’d like those too. He lit up with a smile. We talked and helped him carry all of the clothes into his car, which filled his whole back seat. Then he turned to me and handed me a 20 bill and said, “for the good deed.” I just about broke into tears. So I guess, in the end it was a story of both paying it forward and strangers surprising you. :)