Smiles are serious!

Every single one of us can make someone smile if we only smile back at them. Smiles are contagious, and it’s rare that if you smile at someone, they won’t smile back at you.

It’s funny, but I remember my mother, of blessed memory, telling us that in Russia, when people took family photographs, no one smiled. She said in Yiddish: M’iz geshtanen azoi vi miz geshtanen—the way we were standing, that’s the way we took the photo.

Think of all the family photos you have in your albums from your grandparents and great-grandparents. Chances are they are not smiling. And not because they had nothing to smile about, but because that was the way of the world then.

But today, we live in a very different world. Today, we smile in every picture. The kids even make funny faces. It’s a different world, but one thing we have not yet learned is to smile at each other. Every day and in every conversation, we need to greet each other with a wide smile. Not just a cold hello, but a warm, welcoming smile to go with that hello.

My father, of blessed memory, always greeted everyone with a smile. The Rebbe once said about him, “Everybody comes in to see me with a very serious face, but Reb Yankel kumt arein mit a breiten shmeichel”—my father always came in with a wide smile. And, of course, the Rebbe always smiled back.

Pirkei Avot, “Ethics of the Fathers” (1:15), teaches us that this is the correct way to welcome someone. The great sage Shammai used to say: “Make Torah study a fixed practice; speak little, but do more, and greet every person with a cheerful face.”

So don’t underestimate the power of a smile. Let’s smile at everyone we meet, and if we have time, let’s say a friendly hello, a friendly “I haven’t seen you for a while. I miss you.”

You are guaranteed to make someone’s day. They will go home and tell their husbands or wives or friends, “Guess who gave me such a nice hello today?”

What did that cost us? A minute? A few seconds? A moment of your time to make someone else happy.

If you meet someone who is having a bad day or a bad week, that smile of yours can turn things around for them! And let’s not forget that old song: “When you’re smiling, the whole world smiles with you.” So much payback for such a small thing.

Sending you all a big smile ...