The kids and I have this silly little tradition that started when we lived back in Chicago.
We like to force people to smile.
No, not by accosting them and physically manipulating their lips from a downward sulk to an upward grin with our hands.
We aren't that aggressive.
However, when at a restaurant or cafe, facing a busy pedestrian street, we like to position ourselves at the window and play a game to see how many people we can get to smile at us after waving to them as they walk by.
This started years ago at the window counter-seat at our local Whole Foods. Living in a college town meant that the street was full of people walking, jogging, and biking on their merry way.
Only, many of them didn't look so merry.
Sit and people watch for any length of time and you'll find that a natural positive disposition is rare. (The smiley, bounce-in-their-step people look out of place.)
And try and wave with a smile to a perfect stranger and one is met with . . . confusion.
Now, to be fair, in our little experiment, there were a handful who would wave, smile, and giggle as they past our surprise grin-trap. But the majority?
Looked, stared, turned away, and continued walking.
Research has shown that facial expressions do indeed have some influence over our emotions. There is a hint of truth to the self-help “fake it till you make it” statement.
Hey, my kids aren't always in the best mood. Neither is Mom. Or Dad. But something happens when we set out to help others feel better, even when we don't.
And I want to teach my children this.
Even if I do so by encouraging them to do something as small as smiling and waving.
For I'd rather teach my children to “Give 'em joy!” rather than “Give 'em hell!”
Sure, it's a little Pollyanna'ish, but a little Pollyanna goes a long way.
Joline Pinto Atkins is a former actress who now uses the web as her world-wide stage and can also be founding writing at The Cuppa Jo, Fit With Jo, and is a contributor at Daily Fast Fuel. Joline is wife to one (phew - that's good to know) and mother of two amazing children, aged 10 and 6, who are both named after authors. Addicted to fitness, she sweats out any daily angst by running (not with sharp objects) and P90X'ing, and longs for good books, vats of coffee, and an endless supply of buffalo wings - which she will not share with you. So, please, do not ask.