Be the reason someone smiles today
I couldn’t help but notice the hundreds of people who couldn’t be bothered to spare us a glance, let alone a smile.
Assistant Mosaic Editor
On a frigid day in the heart of downtown Chicago, a man wrapped in newspapers sat on the corner of Michigan and Delaware Avenues. A bare-boned cat mewed next to him, tugging at the fishing line wrapped haphazardly around the cardboard collar cinching its neck. In front of him, a sign read, “Homeless. Hungry. Lonely.”
I stopped in front of his post, said hello and asked him how he was doing.
He cracked a smile so big I could see every single one of his teeth. He could barely get out proper words, they tumbled so excitedly from his mouth. I sat down next to him, my back leaning against the metal pole of Delaware Avenue. We sat together, him filling me in on the morning drama of the illegal fruit stand across the street. While I listened, I couldn’t help but notice the hundreds of people who couldn’t be bothered to spare us a glance, let alone a smile.
Flash forward three weeks, I’m no longer walking the streets of Chicago looking for a glimpse of Delaware, but here on campus, wondering just how many opportunities college students have to make people smile.
With rates of depression rising rapidly on college campuses, students don’t always have the time nor energy to smile, let alone make someone else happy.
However, it doesn’t take a huge grand gesture or thousands of dollars to perk someone up, and students around the university agree that some of the smallest things people do are the ones that make them the happiest.
Cameron Goff, a senior studying meteorology, recalled the enthusiastic response he got from complimenting someone on their outfit.
“I told a stranger at a party I liked her pants and that made her smile,” says Goff. “Because just having a random person come up to you and say ‘Oh my gosh, I love your pants’ it’s just like, a great feeling. You’re Beyoncé in your mind at that point.”
Emi Oka, a sophomore engineering student agreed that when someone compliments her outfits or jewelry, she can’t help but grin.
Sara Duphily, a sophomore studying biomedical engineering, came back from winter session begrudgingly, dreading the first day of classes and nervous about another semester of difficult coursework. Before she had even entered her dorm, she had to smile as she took in a note from her resident assistant (RA).
“I was so not stoked to come back,” Duphily says. “I was like, ‘Oh gosh, here we go again.’ But my RA put notes up on all of our doors that said ‘welcome back’ and ‘thank you for doing you and coming to the floor meetings.’ And as I was unlocking my door and saw that, it just made me smile.”
Tori Peterson, a sophomore studying biomedical engineering, talked about the little notes scattered around campus that are nice reminders of positivity.
“I always love the unexpected sticky notes I find places,” says Peterson. “Like when there’s a note on the paper towel dispenser that just says ‘You are beautiful,’ I just really appreciate that.”
Late-night texts, handwritten letters, small gifts: all of these were things students remembered warmly as things that made them smile, even in their darkest moments.
Above all, many students spoke about the importance of being acknowledged. Elizabeth Patrick, a sophomore studying health behavior science, explained that even a wave from someone on The Green perked up her day.
“A lot of time walking around campus when I see people I know, when they just wave and smile and take the time to say hi, that always means a lot,” says Patrick. “I just think there’s something to be said about smiling at someone and saying hi.”
It can be as simple as saying “Hi.” You can be someone’s reason to smile today, so why not give it a try?