A smile is an act of kindness

November 13th is World Kindness Day. I wonder why we need to designate a day for kindness when we can be kind every day we live?


As I was walking down a back street in Brighton the other evening, I loved this sign on someone’s door. A beautiful sign just saying, “Bonjour”.  

Now I know you all know what that means but it sparked memories of my time in Brussels and the experiment I embarked upon and continued until I left in 2014. I moved to Brussels in 2000, a naïve American that was happy, energetic and smiled a lot (still do!). I noticed quickly that the people of the city I encountered (or walked by or sought to communicate with) seldom displayed those traits.

I wanted to get people smiling (note: naïve American). My experiment was keeping my head up and forward when walking down the streets and looking at people and smiling as I passed them. I can’t count the number of people that looked away, looked down, didn’t make eye contact and definitely didn’t smile. I know some of this is cultural – but a smile is universal!

A smile denotes connection, warmth, openness. In fact, the Cambridge dictionary defines a smile as: “A happy or friendly expression on the face.”

I know that when I smile I feel better and when someone smiles back it’s doubled. I did have several experiences when people did smile back and I’ll never forget the one woman who stopped in her tracks and said, “Do I know you?” I should have said “Oui” and carried on a conversation but sadly my French wasn’t quite at that level.

A couple of weeks ago a friend shared with me that she was walking down the street (here in Brighton) when a couple of young lads passed her, probably coming from school. One said, “Hello, how was your day today?” It stopped her in her tracks with surprise but she answered and asked him the same. As the boys walked on she overheard one of them say to his mate, “See that wasn’t so hard!”. It makes you wonder if they had a lesson in connection and smiling that day in school!

Woman smiling

A smile doesn’t take a lot of effort and it gives so much to not only ourselves but for others. How about experimenting with me as you go out today – look up, smile, carry on. And guess what, that alone is an act of kindness both to yourself and others.

And another thing… How do you want to be seen? You know by now I look at people as I walk down the street and I am often disappointed, sad and confused at the expression people have on their faces. I see frowns, disgust, anger, grumpiness, unhappiness in many forms.

Yes, I’m making assumptions based on the emotions I see in these faces and I can – because I know emotions as I work with them daily as a life coach. Emotion is energy in motion and, if we are displaying less than positive emotion, our energy goes with it. We feel it, others feel it and it can easily bring us to a lower level of well-being.

On the other side, if we consciously are aware of smiling and having a pleasant look on our face, it will lift our energy and the bonus is it may also lift that of those who see you.  

So my quest and maybe a gift for you today is to look up with a smile to everyone you pass and seek to be aware of how you want to be seen. I bet every one of you wants others to see you with positive emotion and a heart of kindness. The world needs more of this, you probably could use a dose of it and I know when you pass me on the street I will embrace it!

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Brighton, East Sussex, BN1
Written by Sherie Olmstead
Brighton, East Sussex, BN1

Sherie is a Brighton based Personal and Professional coach who travels internationally and locally embracing life along the way. She loves what she does and does what she loves and if you happen to see her she'll look at you, smile and wish you a 'good day'.

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