Opinion: A smile means more

Christina Bucciere is a senior journalism major and a columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].

Christina Bucciere

My grandma was the kind of person who could strike up a conversation with anyone and often would. When I was younger, it was embarrassing. We didn’t know these people, but she talked to them as if they were a lifelong friend. It didn’t make sense.

It all started with a smile. Standing in line, passing a stranger on the sidewalk, she beamed. And people seemed to respond.

Although I was, and probably always will be, too introverted to be the chatty stranger standing behind you in line, I felt comfortable enough to emulate her casual friendliness with the simple gesture of a smile.

“You never know who’s having a bad day,” she would tell me.

I got it then.

So, I practiced. I started with my elders. They were always willing to receive my shy smile and reciprocated with ease.

Suddenly, I was communicating with strangers, acknowledging their presence, making them feel welcome. And their smiles gave me the same feeling.

Next, I tried it on my peers. It was awkward at first. Maybe they would think I’m weird. Maybe they would think I had a twitch.

But a strange thing happened. They smiled back. Readily. It was as if they needed it, absorbed it and used it to press on.

It got me thinking. Maybe a smile was an antidote. On a bad day, maybe it has the power to make a difference. So, I continued to smile.

But something happened as I got older, took on more responsibility, got busier. I lost my smile. I was too absorbed in my own blinding daily pressures. I brushed past strangers in a hurry to the next task. My world got smaller, less bright. These strangers were becoming true strangers now, where before they provided something more like silent reassurances.

But then the other day, as I trudged up the stairs on my way to my next class, I lifted my head to meet the kind smile of a fellow student. He was in a hurry, skipping down the steps, but his smile landed on my conscious and jolted a long-forgotten smile in response.

This one-second exchange renewed a sentiment in me I had neglected for too long.

A shared smile between strangers is an understanding. It’s a recognition that life is hard, but we’re all facing challenges together. It’s a comfort that it will be OK.

Some might say it’s just being polite. Maybe for some it is. But my grandma taught me it means more, and I’m holding on to that.