“There are smiles that make you happy…”, “Let a smile be your umbrella…”
Like many old-timey songs, we’d have more to smile about if their often sweet-natured lyrics and tunes became big-timey again. Especially here in what somebody once called “Frown City.” In truth, it’s become more of a “Here’s Not Looking at You,” kind of town—unless I know you, and sometimes not even then—since cell phones took over public places and then some.
But there’s hope. If we just make a SMILE pin to wear on our lapel, handbag, briefcase, cap, hat or whatever. Just cut out the SMILE illustration and color with magic markers or crayons and paste it on some old button or badge that has a pin on the back. It’s kind of a redemptive thing to wear, not only on Easter or Passover, don’t you think?
Not unrelated, Carol Burnett and Charles Grodin once tried without much success to give New York a “friendlier” image. Grodin still gives a “peace and good will” sound byte on CBS radio. And Bill Cosby often wears a T-shirt with the word “friend” to honor his beloved son, Ennis, whose favorite greeting it was.
Soft words turneth away wrath, but so does a smile—and it makes the smiler feel better, too. Science finds just the action of smiling somehow lifts one’s spirits. It can make a difficult task easier, but no smiling “when your heart is breaking,” like a long ago lyric so wrongly advised. And no smiling when we should be frowning at wrongdoing.
Ah, but words to make us smile (beam!) were surely spoken by Council Member Dan Garodnick’s aide, Segun Akande. When at last his turn came to give his report to the East 79th Street Neighborhood Association, he said, simply, “I’m not going to talk about what our office is doing. It’s all in the handout. I’m here to hear your ideas and concerns.” Amen! (Incidentally, renters’ rights deservedly got great legislative attention, but co-op/condo dweller worries were too quickly dismissed.)
Now isn’t that more democratic, not to mention potentially productive, for panelists, guest speakers and the like to first hear what the community has to say? Civic leader Betty Cooper Wallerstein once suggested “going around the meeting room to hear everyone’s concern.” So did author/social critic Sidney Offitt, when he was president of the 19th Precinct Community Council. So did I, at Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church’s workshop for those affected by the economic crisis or worried about someone who was. Share the talk and set time limits, if you remember nothing else from this column—outside of making and wearing the SMILE pin.
But these universal needs are so little, if ever, considered by trendsetting mediums and policy makers. The SMILE pin can help change all that. Smile when you wear it, of course. You’ll find the result is often quite, well, redemptive, and don’t we need that—not only at Easter and Passover time.
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