I usually put on a smile. It’s easy for me because the people whom I meet usually are young students who return my smile with compound interest. Young people love smiling faces and they are sure to reciprocate with more charming smiles. When I come across adults, I have to make an extra effort to smile but I usually succeed.
At least I’ve been assuming that I normally carry a smiling face. That’s why I was surprised when a student of mine asked me the other day why I was so serious outside the school. The world outside the school does not matter to me except when I have some business to do with it like buying vegetables or negotiating the traffic at some crowded junction. I guess I don’t smile at the vegetable seller or the stranger at the traffic crossing. I also guess that my student didn’t mean that. Probably he noticed a drastic contrast between my face in school and the one outside. Probably he thinks that my smile in the school is a put-on.
I earnestly hope that my students don’t take my smile in school as a put-on. Because it is not. The smile is genuine. Young students extract that smile from me and I am grateful to them for doing it. They do make that difference to my life.
I wish the world did the same to all of us: extract smiles. Well, the world is never so good to anyone, I think.
When I meet people who are acquainted with me in some way I do make an effort to smile. The effort is genuine even if the smile may not be. I know a smile is much better than any other expression. A smile disarms people. Most importantly, a smile makes people think you are a happy person. People generally leave happy creatures alone. They are more interested in sad people because sad people carry stories within them. People are interested in stories, sad stories, sad stories of other people. So it’s better to smile at least to reassure the other people that you don’t have any interesting stories to narrate. They’d rather leave you alone.