I frequently discover myself being mesmerized by happy faces. 7,000 different languages are spoken throughout the world. But there is one thing we can use to connect with everybody, regardless of a language – a smile! In fact, it is one of the first expressions we learn. The brain responds to a smile chemically, releasing neuropeptides. These are tiny molecules that aid in reducing stress. Dopamine makes us feel happier while endorphins work as a minor pain reliever. On the other hand, serotonin has a stress-reduction effect and is an antidepressant.
I remember reading this statement by William Hazlitt many years ago – “A gentle word, a kind look, a good-natured smile can work wonders and accomplish miracles“. It stayed with me subconsciously without knowing the different ways in which it would turn out to be true my life and lead me to wonderful experiences.
As An India Fellow
When I look back on my decision to join the fellowship, coming to work in rural Bihar and staying motivated, I can only think of a bunch of smiles that I encountered in this journey and how they made me feel. The first day when I met the team and other participants who had come for the selection process, their cheerful smiles greeted me. It gave me the courage to begin this journey and my faith in this choice strengthened.
While it was being decided where exactly I would work, I got a chance to talk to three organizations. It was a friendly, open, and straightforward conversation with Surya, the founder of PRAYOG where I’m currently working at a children’s library in Gopalganj district of Bihar.
Of the many things on my mind when I set out on this journey, I was highly aware that the shift from Kashmir to Bihar wouldn’t be easy. My greatest concern was whether I would ever be able to blend in or if I’d feel too out of place. The strategies and pointers in my head kept telling me how I can initiate conversations, how to connect with local people and places, and what ought to be the dos and don’ts. I’d exhale softly, assuring myself that everything would be okay.
There were several apprehensions before I initially interacted with children. Most prominent was the fear of whether they would be able to connect with me. How will I be seen by them? Will people treat me differently because of the way I look and speak?
My worries soon subsided as I encountered a group of interested eyes looking at me with a ton of questions, smiling and chuckling, ready to know me and talk to me. The disparity didn’t seem to worry them; instead, they appeared to be happy and engaged. I returned the smile and let go of all the thoughts that were holding me back at that time. This allowed me to be present in the moment. I knew what I had to do.
This was accompanied by the warmth and beauty of those faces, which brought comfort to my heart. As we started our activities, I found myself captivated, gazing at the children, full of energy and enthusiasm. They never cease to surprise me, even on days when I don’t feel like doing anything because of fatigue. They run over to me as soon as they see me. The children bounce up and down with joy and flashing smiles as bright as stars, as energetic as the sun. It gets really difficult to resist giving in to this kind of bliss.
My takeaways from this
It helps me to think of the the faces of people who are dear to me. All of them share a warm expression that makes my heart swell with happiness. I prefer to get up early, make a list of things to do and attempt to follow my morning routine. There are items on that list that I occasionally forget but I always remember to smile. It goes with everything. This miraculous remedy for all my troubles comes to mind specially when I wake up with a heavy heart and/or too many thoughts. Every smile has the power to warm someone’s heart. No one is born happy, but we are all blessed with the power to create joy.