What's In A Smile?

Posted by Bhoutik Mehta on Mar 28, 2013
121521 reads  

Inspired by stories of Miles of Smiles, a group of us decided to celebrate several birthdays by spreading smiles on a busy intersection in Fremont earlier this month. We drew up some smile posters, headed to a high-traffic area, split up to the four busy corners of the intersection, and waved our smile signs until our throats were hoarse and hearts were full. Then we returned to Vinya’s humble abode, shared reflections and a hearty meal (complete with a surprise cake!), and left with our hearts full and shoulders light.
The energy from that afternoon kept many of us smiling throughout the week, and several of us felt moved to write down some things we learned:
The Strength of Smiles Squared from Jo
In thinking back on our smile adventure, I feel the importance of noble friends in our service to the world. What might have been a nerve-wracking feat was filled with ease because we did it together. To watch my friends wave, shout, and even do a little jig to get strangers to smile was awesome. Joining with friends not only made this event more joyful, but more effective. As we stood with signs, some strangers would read the first sign and look puzzled. As they traveled through the intersection and saw another sign and another smiling face, delight replaced confusion on the faces of drivers and passengers. I feel so lucky to be in a community that continually reminds me of the joy in random acts of kindness, and joins together to delight the world.
Smiles Lift Veils from Vinya
It was a beautiful experience of working together in bringing smiles on our faces and those around us. I felt awkward holding the poster and smiling at strangers in the beginning :). My apprehensions melted as folks smiled at our posters and cheered us on by honking their cars and waving to us. There is a definite joy in giving but the thrill of our gifts being accepted far surpasses the joy of giving. It was an honor to witness strangers turn into familiar beings as they flashed a smile or turn their car around just to cheer us on. Did they smile because the poster made them happy or did they smile to support our intentions? It is hard to tell but in the end all that matters is those priceless moments when we inch closer to lifting the veils of our seeming separateness with a simple smile.

Three Key Takeaways from Nandini

To me, the most prized lessons from this experiment were the following: (a) gratitude for a community of friends who were excited about sharing hours of their Sunday, and some of their birthdays standing out in the sun, excercising their jaw muscles as we smiled non stop; (b) humility in knowing that you're never a cause for anyone's smiles. People smile when they are compelled to, and my only duty was to remind myself to be grateful for what I have so that I can smile, and hopefully be a mirror for several passerbys to reflect on what their reasons for smile could be; (c) to be a deep basket, one that can hold all the reactions to my action without creating unwholesome reactions.

“Why Not?”
That’s what Brandon asked himself, as he drove by the intersection and decided to join us for the fun! A week later, he sends this email:
It was so great to join you and everyone participating on Sunday!! I rode up and saw people holding signs and thought that I was going to see a protest or something like that and instead was pleasantly surprised!!! We chatted a little at the light and then I went on my way smiling..
I was about to go home or go eat something, but I’ve got this amazing friend of mine who is the most spontaneous person I’ve ever met, and I do think that characteristic of her has rubbed off on me so I thought, “Why not?” And pulled into the Hub and came over! Something that I realized about Sunday was that joining in was an answered prayer. I prayed the night before that somehow I may be a blessing to everyone I come in contact with, that I may be a light to whoever was needing it. It only hit me later in the day as I remembered what I had prayed that this was indeed the answer to it! I haven’t had that much fun in a long time. Truly wonderful to help some people smile, to see them light up as they go by… I know we brightened up a lot of people’s days and left many smiling, including me!

A Wish For Every Sore Spot from Audrey
It was powerful to witness the universality of a smile. For two hours, we stood at the Fremont intersection, cheering drivers to smile with our bright posters, handing out notes with quotes to passerby, and sharing the love through little impromptu smile-dances. At one point, Afreen looked at me and said, "This is such a lesson. Such an incredible reminder of how human we all are--how beautiful each person is."
There was something energizing and reviving about this. Something I couldn't quite place or pinpoint. In just wishing strangers joy--in just sharing a smile with the guy behind the wheel, or the kid eating ice cream in the back, or the woman on her cell phone in the passenger's seat, something inside me shifted. I started seeing every face, every set of eyes, nose and lips, as a beautiful manifestation of life on earth. An incredible, vital, and perfect piece of humanity that deserved nothing but the best. As we waved our smile signs, as the reluctant wry-faced couple cracked into a chuckle and then a wide grin, as the elderly man in a well-worn truck accepted my yellow flower, I felt my heart expand. I wished for every sore spot within every body, mind, and soul to smile. To laugh. To experience the simple joy of this moment--the immeasurable gift of being alive at this point in time-- and share in the unfolding of existence on this dry, sunny, Sunday, at the corner of Mowry and Fremont.

At the end of the day, I learned that smiling is hard without connection. When two pairs of eyes meet it is natural to smile, but how often do they meet at busy intersections where the intention is to go from one place to the next? The biggest take away was to experience that the journey is as or more important than the destination :-) And while traveling on the journey, don't forget to smile. :-)              

Posted by Bhoutik Mehta | | permalink

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Comments (3)

  • Guri Mehta wrote ...

    Thanks for sharing all the beautiful lessons you guys learned. What a fun activity. Btw, amazing, smile-inducing photos. :-)

  • Kanchan Gokhale wrote ...

    bhoutik!! this is so wonderful!!

  • Kanchan Gokhale wrote ...

    B2 is da best!