“Every morning, when we wake up, we have twenty-four brand-new hours to live. What a precious gift! We have the capacity to live in a way that these twenty-four hours will bring peace, joy, and happiness to ourselves and others…we need only to be awake, alive in the present moment.”
– Thich Nhat Hanh (Peace is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life, p. 5)

Have you ever noticed when you’re out on the trail, people heading in the opposite direction — be they fellow biker, walker, or runner — smile and say “Hi”?

That’s because, as Mother Theresa wrote (No Greater Love, p. 93), “Poverty doesn’t only consist of being hungry for bread, but rather it is a tremendous hunger for human dignity. We need to love and to be somebody for someone else.”

For whatever reason, when people are out doing similar things they’re more receptive to the greeting of a stranger. It’s like there’s some unspoken camaraderie shared between them — but it’s a camaraderie, whether they realize it or not, that runs far deeper than merely wearing the same running outfits or riding the same Diamondback bikes.

The Dalai Lama (The Essential Dalai Lama: His Important Teachings, pages 7, 8) wrote:

For my part, meeting innumerable others from all over the world and from every walk of life reminds me of our basic sameness as human beings. Indeed, the more I see of the world, the clearer it becomes that no matter what our situation, whether we are rich or poor, educated or not, of one race, gender, religion or another, we all desire to be happy and to avoid suffering.

I believe that — which is why a smile, a nod, or a simple wave of the hand can sometimes be a powerful way to help someone be happy. It only takes a moment, maybe even a split second. But it may be the most beneficial few seconds in someone’s day.

“Peace begins with a smile…”

There’s a story that Zen practitioners love to tell called The Flower Sermon. It goes like this:

When Shakyamuni Buddha was at Mount Grdhrakuta, he held out a flower to his listeners. Everyone was silent. Only Mahakashyapa broke into a broad smile. The Buddha said, “I have the True Dharma Eye, the Marvelous Mind of Nirvana, the True Form of the Formless, and the Subtle Dharma Gate, independent of words and transmitted beyond doctrine. This I have entrusted to Mahakashyapa.”

Many centuries later, Mother Teresa – likely not even aware of The Flower Sermon – captured some of its meaning simply by saying, “Peace begins with a smile.”

Life isn’t all that complicated. Really. It is made so when we walk through it scowling, grumbling, being impatient, angry, insensitive, rude. Especially when we’re having a Really. Bad. Day.

But have you noticed how someone’s entire demeanor can change if you smile at him? A simple smile can defuse a tense situation, uplift a weary heart, and state – without words – I am on your side…I care about you.

There’s a lot of wisdom in a smile. Without saying a word. And plenty of peace to go ’round because of them.

I think we can change our communities with a smile.

Want to give it a try?

What do we have to lose? (I’ll bet it’s not likely not half as much as we have to gain.)

Let’s see what happens.