(I say these words of advice to myself before anyone else)
I entered the lift today at work. There were two other people in the lift already, both staring at me as I entered. I smiled at both, as per my usual habit when entering a lift, but there were no smiles in return.
Sure, none of us recognised each other, though we most certainly work at the same company as evidenced by the identical swipe access cards clipped to the top of each of our trousers. Yet, it felt as though I was alone in the lift with no other life form nearby.
Granted, it was Friday, and we were all probably heading home, and it’s usually one of those moments when people say “what a week it has been!”. Instead, the lift was eerily quiet. But, despite how tiring or difficult the working week may have been, what would it have cost the other people if they had smiled at me, or heck, smiled at each other?
Fast forward fifteen minutes when I hopped onto the bus to make my way home, and I was greeted with a cheery smile from the bus driver. I responded with the same and took my seat, feeling that the lift experience was an exception, not the rule. I figured some people simply need to smile more, and some people need to be smiled at, more often.
Still, the question remains, that if a smile is uplifting and attractive for both the wearer and the receiver, what holds people back from sharing the love?
I came up with the following reasons (and feel free to add to this list):
- a very busy/difficult day at work, with a lot to think about, thereby rendering people temporarily emotionless, and perhaps slightly lacking in courtesy
- deep thinking about other life issues leading to a distracted form of social engagement
- genuine disdain for expressing happiness to someone who may be perceived as a threat, who is of a different cultural or religious background, or whose motives for smiling at you are perceived as suspicious
In all of the above cases, I believe a smile can go a long way in transforming the mood of the situation. There have been innumerable days when I’ve felt overwhelmed with work, and it only takes a smile or two from co-workers to elevate my mood, even if only slightly. Furthermore, smiling releases endorphins which play a part in affecting our emotions, and can help reduce our response to pain and stress. To top it off, the scientists in the aforementioned article say that smiling may even promote better cardiac health! Who would’ve thought?
So if you’ve skipped the whole post and come to this point, I’d like to encourage myself as well as others to at least try to implement this: make a more concerted effort to smile more, especially to those who might not already be in a cheerful mood. Besides, the only reason we Muslims need in order to smile is that it is a Sunnah, a practice of the Noble Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings upon him), and it is regarded as a charitable act, and I believe charity is that which you give without expecting in return, having full certainty that your reward is with your Creator, The Most Gracious.
But what do you do if you smile at someone and you don’t receive the same courtesy in return? Well, some people just need a hug.
And that’s a story for another day.
Wassalaam (with peace),