Thursday, May 03, 2007

The Value of a Smile

Peter Singer, a professor of bioethics at Princeton University, published an article not long ago in which he reported an informal study in the city of Port Phillip, Australia, to find out how often people smile at those who pass them in the street. Australians are famous for being open and friendly, but even so, the study reported that over the last year and a half, the proportion of people who would smile at you on the Port Phillip streets had risen by two percent (from 8% to 10%). You can read the article on the Project Syndicate website - click the link in my list at the left, and look for the article titled "No Smile Limit."

I always try to be pleasant to people (even when they don't particularly deserve it), and my experience over the last 56 years has been that people will almost always respond positively to a smile and a friendly greeting. We have, sadly, become a relatively suspicious population (Why are you smiling? Are you a psycho? Are you hiding some dark secret?), but nevertheless, smiles tend to be contagious. There are, of course, the die-hard thugs who take pride in their threatening scowls, but they are just shutting themselves off from what others might offer.

We live in a time of suspicions, hatreds, and a daily rush that often makes us forget the importance of getting along with each other. If a simple smile makes a difference, why not do it?

Offer not applicable in the Middle East.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


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