A "SMILE" symbolizes a small physical action with unbelievable impact. And positive impact is what I want in our community and country. I think there is an undeniable feeling of gratitude which comes from doing right by another without having to be asked. To make a difference in someone else's day is an undeniable hug for your own soul.
I think often about the media and what it is telling our society about race, gender, safety and our schools. I constantly find myself asking what else can be done in the education system to make our schools safe for children and young adults? What can I control and what can I not? I have approached the schools and administrators about volunteering or advocating on topics of mental health, school safety and fund raising. This is one positive impact but the process takes time as ideas need research, agreement and policy.
So today, I reflect on what I can do to immediately impact kids who go under the radar and need emotional support? And how can we teach kids who are not needing support valuable life skills on how to treat others? I hate feeling so dependent on the school boards and waiting around for those in authority to make changes. I need it to be easy for people, something that requires no policy changes and no votes. This is what came to me in the form of a challenge.
A challenge for myself, my family and those in the community.
What if it were as simple as a SMILE and the benefits that come with it? Taking the time to ask someone you might not know well how their day is going. Pausing an extra moment to engage in conversations outside your normal routines. I'm not asking anything crazy. Do you think it would help if you were having a down day and someone took the time to ask you how your day was? Just to share a smile. At work, at school, in the grocery store....anywhere. Heck, maybe even including someone from your kid's school in an outing to the zoo or park. Or asking a coworker to join you and others for lunch.
What if we started a movement called SMILE? With an underlying principle of reaching out of your comfort circle and talking to someone else, including someone else and helping them to feel important and part of the community. Leading by example and explaining it to our kids after. I don't know.....could this have an impact in a positive way?
Think back to your own school days and that kid who sat alone in the morning. Imagine how he or she would have felt if you walked up to them and just said, "Hi, how is your day?" Or during recess asked them, "Do you want to play or keep score during our soccer game?" As adults we know how impactful that could have been back then. So with that knowledge what can be done to make things better in our schools today? I think it starts with us. Each of the parents and adults in the community leading the charge. Can you imagine if schools created an environment where the "norm" was for kids to reach out to others outside of their "circle" and include them? To write something nice on their social media page?
I have to flashback to my high school days. I will share a little about me to those new to my blog.
Back then in the late 90's, I was a star soccer player with a full scholarship athlete going to Michigan State. I broke the all time scoring record in my high school, had good grades, was an all state athlete, had friends and a boyfriend. From the outside world my life looked great. However, I was anything but ok. I struggled constantly with my mom's spreading cancer and the chemo that was "treating" it but making her feel horrible. She had a stem cell transplant my senior year and was hospitalized for weeks with the chance that she might never walk out of the treatment alive. Her declining health mixed with my own anxieties about losing my mom, keeping my scholarship, keeping my grades up and trying to be somewhat part of the social crowd consumed most of my life. I found it difficult to get through the day, yet I did because I had to. I used to wish I could just fall into a coma so I wouldn’t have to witness her suffering and wake up when the cancer was gone. The problem with that wish is the cancer never went away and it eventually killed her.
Nobody knew how broken I felt during those years because I hid it so well. I promised myself that one day if I can ever help others going through something similar I will.
I am trying a multi prong approach by interacting with school administrators, writing a book "Overcoming Obstacles", publicly sharing my own personal stories and now blogging.
What if making a difference in our school systems is a simple reminder to your kid on the way out to the bus? "Hey, don't forget to share that beautiful smile today!" What if a SMILE is code in schools for including others and reaching out? What if it were that simple? Would that help kids not feel left out? I picture emoji smiles around the schools. Just simple reminders to include others and reach out.
I think this is one small piece of the puzzle but can be a powerful tool. I think for those kids out there feeling alone or in pain, this will help. It is taking small steps every single day in a positive direction. Imagine if everyone in the school was making some effort doing this? Could it help kids feel more a part of the school? Would it help reduce school violence and school threats? Will kids struggling feel more supported? I think it is worth a try.
Heck, if the worst case is you said something nice to another human then I think it is a win either way.