A year ago physician Alex Lickerman in his blog Happiness in this World mused, in the spirit of the Optimist Creed, about a simple, cheap way to help others (and himself) be happier: just smile. The little essay "Smiling at Strangers" tells of his encounters as a first-year medical student at the hospital cafeteria with the surly staff. The story finishes with:
In the end, of course, I concluded that I really had no good reason not to smile at everyone. Certainly, it takes some amount of attention and energy. But in smiling at strangers, I acknowledge their humanity, and in doing that, in reminding myself of it, I promote peace. How? By bringing joy to others that's far out of proportion to the investment required—as I learned seven years after I first started my smiling experiment. I'd finished medical school and residency, and had returned to the University of Chicago as an attending physician. One day soon after I'd arrived, I went down to buy lunch in the same cafeteria. And when I approached the check-out line, I found myself greeted by a cashier I didn't at first even recognize who, wearing a happy, surprised smile, suddenly exclaimed in delight, "Where have you been?"