Thursday, October 29, 2009


Karen and I were crowded into a very busy subway car the other day, when we saw a little boy, somewhere between two and three years of age, sprawled on top of a stroller that was just a bit too small for him. He was calm but seemingly bored, with very little of the vitality that you expect from a boy that young. His mother, too, was still and appeared to be very tired, drained of expression or energy. Karen sat just a few feet away from the boy and, looking straight at him, flashed her most radiant smile. The boy responded immediately by beaming broadly, almost as if he were waiting to be acknowledged and appreciated in this way. Karen beamed back and for a few seconds that part of the car seemed almost suffused with sunlight, as the two smiling riders infected others with this epidemic of smiling, including the boy's mother who offered her own modest but irrepressible grin. There really is no way to overestimate the impact that a single smile can have on the everyday life of anyone, especially a child in the busy and seemingly uncaring city, just waiting to be greeted and appreciated with this simple but immensely human gesture.

1 comment:

  1. Smiles can do powerful things for people. For an interesting discussion with additional references see Olivia Judson's piece in yesterdays NY Times, on line.