What sunshine is to flowers, smiles are to humanity. Scattered along life’s pathway, the good they do is inconceivable. – Joseph Addison

What does that mean?
As is so often the case, this is a slightly longer quote trimmed down for the sake of sharing on Twitter. The more complete version is: “What sunshine is to flowers, smiles are to humanity. These are but trifles, to be sure; but scattered along life’s pathway, the good they do is inconceivable.”

This quote is about the power of a smile. It even goes so far as to state that smiles are trifles, which are defined as being of little importance or value. Yet it finishes by saying that smiles do so much good that it is beyond comprehension.

It compares sunshine to smiles. Sunlight is the power for the plant which makes the flowers. Smiles are the power for the people, and it does them good. Good what, you ask? Ask that of yourself. When you see a smile, where is the good? For me it’s usually a good feeling. What is it for you?

Why are genuine smiles important?
We’ve all met that person, the one whose smile lights up a whole room. Or the smile that takes the chill out of the winter air. Those smiles are important because you remember them, and the feelings they gave you. They are important because they helped you feel better.

Even a crooked smile, a warm smile, a happy smile, or even a wry smile are also worthy. From young to old, all of the genuine smiles hold something for you. I discount the evil or malicious smiles that some use to mock or torment, they are not what this quote is about.

Genuine smiles help you smile back, or at least help to lighten the load you carry, lighten your spirits, and brighten your day. You’ve felt it before. You’re having a rough day, and someone smiles at you. Even if it was a stranger, you still felt a little better. That is why, in my opinion, smiles are important. Do you agree or disagree?

Where can I apply this in my life?
I imagine you could use a genuine smile just about anywhere, with the possible exception of funerals. In our day-to-day life, we usually interact with at least a few people. How much better would you feel, how much would it lift your spirits if you got a couple more smiles each day?

And how would it feel to you if you were also giving smiles? You have probably done it at some point in your life. You have smiled at someone, and watched them change, feel a little better, more relaxed, less stressed. How did that make you feel?

So a smile is something that feels good both in the giving and in the receiving. Any time you see another person, you could smile, and help both of you feel better, right? But how often do you smile at (or with) other people at present?

Can you even remember when you last gave a genuine smile to a stranger? What about the last time a stranger gave you a smile, how long ago was that? I hope both have happened several times in the last day or so. If not, can you come up with a good reason why not?

I try to do it with nearly everyone I walk past or with whom I interact during the day. Yesterday probably included several dozen smiles given and nearly that many received in return. A couple people beat me to the smile, so mine was the one in return, but we still both felt better for it.

Can you think of any reasons why you don’t smile as much as you think you should? Are you shy? Afraid that someone might try to start a conversation with you? Are you just that grumpy all the time? Try to avoid coming up with excuses and keep digging for real reasons.

Look through your mental list and see what you might be able to do to overcome some of these reasons. You can take it one step at a time, and slowly add to the number of smiles you give each day. But be careful, the last time I tried to add more smiles, it kind of got out of hand.

Could you survive if you gave at least a brief smile to everyone you saw or met? It might be difficult if you spend your time in areas where lots of people are, but you could probably work your way up to that point. After all, what is holding you back?

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