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A few months back I read a book called Smile: The Story of a Face by Sarah Ruhl. In it the author, a notable playwright, tells of her 10-year struggle to overcome Bell’s palsy. The left side of Ruhl’s face was completely paralyzed resulting in her inability to smile. It’s a terrific book detailing an affliction about which I knew very little.

It really woke me up about something that I had never really considered: my face and the intricate matrix of muscles beneath the skin that are necessary to do simple things like smiling.

I will never take smiling for granted again.

Today is World Smile Day, and I thought I’d use this opportunity to share some really cool stuff that will put a smile on your face.

History of Smile Day

Remember this part, in the movie Forrest Gump, when Forrest goes through his cross-country running stage?

It was such a simple drawing. Two dots with an upturned curve. This iconic happy face was actually invented by Harvey Ball in 1963. Harvey was a free lance artist who worked in advertising. He created the joyful symbol to remind customer support staff of State Mutual to smile while talking to customers on the phone. Well, as you know it worked and the happy, yellow circle became famous.

Ball never applied for a trademark or copyright for “Smiley” and only earned a whopping $45 for his work. Similarly, State Mutual did not make any money from the design. Ball’s son, Charles, said that his father was not driven by money and would comment, “Hey, I can only eat one steak at a time, drive one car at a time!”

Once Smiley’s popularity increased Ball became concerned about the over commercialization of his little symbol and out of concern about it losing its original intent, he created World Smile Day which is devoted to spreading joy and love to everyone regardless of race, gender, or location.

Sadly, Harvey Ball passed in 2001, but his foundation continues to promote his message of peace and love.

Celebrate the Smile

Smiling brightens the world, and effects person being smiled at as well as the smiler. According to smart people who study stuff like this, whenever you smile, endorphins are created that create feelings of pleasure. In other words, whenever you share a smile with someone, it makes you feel good. Duh.

So, whether you fill your day with caring acts that bring smiles to others, or just stay at home and watch a “feel good” flick that makes you smile, it’s a day of happiness. Whatever you decide to do today, just don’t forget to smile, baby, smile!

ps. Of course you know by now that the smiley face scene in Forrest Gump was not how the sunny symbol was created, but wasn’t that a great scene? Bet it made you SMILE!

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This work by Anel “Pookie” Ryan is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

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