Ted, a freshman in high school, was walking home from school one day when he saw a kid from his class, Kyle, struggling to carry a mountain load of books. Ted wondered to himself, “Why on earth would anyone be bringing home so many books? He must be a real nerd.” As Ted continued to walk, he saw a group of kids run up to Kyle, knock all of the books out of his hands, and trip him. Kyle’s glasses went flying. Jogging over, Ted retrieved Kyle’s glasses, handed them back to him, and said, “Those guys are jerks. Just ignore them.” Ted helped Kyle pick up his books and carry them home. He then proceeded to invite Kyle over to play football on Saturday with him and his friends. The more Ted and Kyle hung out, the closer friends they became, and over the next four years Kyle and Ted became best friends.
Finally, graduation day arrived. Kyle was extremely nervous about his speech. Ted gave him a little pat on the back and said, “Hey, don’t worry, you’ll be great!” Kyle looked at Ted, and with a truly grateful smile said, “Thanks.”
And so, Kyle stood up to give his Valedictorian speech. He cleared his throat and began, “Graduation is a time to thank those who helped you make it through those tough years. Your parents, your teachers, your siblings, and maybe a coach…but mostly your friends. I am here to tell you that being a friend to someone is the best gift you can give them. I am going to tell you a story.”
And as Ted listened in disbelief, Kyle told the story about the first day Ted had met him. Kyle had made a plan of never coming back to school. He talked of how he had cleaned out his locker so his Mom wouldn’t have to do it later. That was why he was carrying all of his books when Ted first saw him.
“Thankfully, I was saved,’ Kyle said. “My friend saved me from doing the unspeakable.”
A gasp went through the crowd as the handsome, popular, valedictorian, Kyle, told about his weakest moment, and how one person’s small action, literally saved his life.
I have definitely received that much needed smile on a bad day; yet I have also been snapped at when I was already on the verge of tears. How many of us have had a bad day or heard terrible news, and all we needed was a smile from that stranger who walked passed us on the way to work or school? Maybe we did not receive that much needed, ‘have a nice day’ as we checked out from the store. I am sure we can all remember times when we would have given anything just to hear someone else say hello, give a small nod and smile, and acknowledge our existence. Yet, that acknowledgment did not come.
The need for that one glowing smile, or that one thoughtful word or action, is increasing by the day, by the hour, and by the second. The world would be a happier place if we all took the time to care about others—even strangers.
At a Jewish women’s convention, Yemima Mizrachi explained, a young woman stood up and told the following story, “I work as a resource room teacher with children who have learning disabilities. A few years ago, a young boy began taking lessons in my resource room. I could not figure out what had brought him to seek my help. He clearly had no difficulty with his lessons and did well on all his tests. Yet, time after time, he consistently came to my resource room for his lessons. I was determined to find his area of weakness but, as hard as I tried, I could not find any type of learning disability or difficulty. Finally, out of frustration, I took him aside and told him I could not continue giving him lessons. It was a waste of his time and his parents’ hard earned money and he clearly did not need any sort of remedial help. The boy turned to me and said, ‘I will tell you why I am here but I am asking you not to tell anyone else. I have a friend with a learning disability. Our teacher told him that he needed remedial classes in the resource room. He was so embarrassed to be singled out as having to go to your classes. I told him that it was no big deal and that I also take remedial classes. That is why I come to you—so that my friend will not be embarrassed.’” The child who came to this woman’s classes was Gilad Sha’ar, the 16 year old boy who was kidnapped and murdered, with two of his friends, Eyal Yifrach 19, and Naftali Frenkel 16, in Israel, by terrorists. He was 10 years old at the time of this story.
Gilad is no longer alive. Yet his action lives on to inspire and touch so many others. If a 10 year old child could be so thoughtful and caring, how much more so can we, adults, be able to think of others beyond ourselves? He had no idea at the time that this story would impact and inspire so many people years later, after his tragic and premature death—a death that he did not forsee when he did this incredible act of selflessness. Gilad is gone, but his memory and priceless actions leave a righteous and inspirational legacy in his wake.
As we see from Gilad and Ted, our actions have consequences. If we claim we do not have the time to do an action as big as Ted and Gilad’s, then the least we can do is smile. At what expense to ourselves does a small smile cost us? Nothing, yet the ramifications are unimaginable and immeasurable.
Your face is a public domain. Be the one to give that first smile. Who knows, that smile may come back to you when you need it most. As Dr. Steve Maraboli, a life-changing speaker and bestselling author, and Behavioral Science Academic, says “It only takes a split second to smile and forget, yet to someone that needed it, it can last a lifetime.”