My brother Larry is an accomplished scientist, a business professional, and a devoted family man. His head of thick curls is now frosted with a bit of silver, but he's one of those guys who you can look at and imagine exactly what he was like when he was five years old. Affable and soft spoken, intelligent and kind, he is one of my favorite people ever.
My husband Rick and I went to visit Larry and his family recently, at their home outside of Boston. The morning after we arrived, Larry suggested that we take a trip to Hampton Beach, New Hampshire, which was just about an hour's car ride. He'd seen online that they were hosting their annual sand sculpture competition. So off we went.
As we drove into the beach area, we all prayed for a parking space and then laughed together as one opened up in the best possible spot - just as we were cruising by. The day was lovely - sunny and cool - and the people-watching was fantastic. Not to mention the amazing sand sculptures, like the one above titled, "She Loves Me, She Loves Me Not."
After we strolled up and down and had a good look at the sculptures, we spotted a tent where McDonald's was giving away free iced coffee, and other marketing SWAG, one of which was a smile on a stick. There's really no other way to explain it, because that's precisely what it was - a smile on a stick. To demonstrate, here is my brother Larry and his wife Debbie enjoying theirs.
After our coffee break, we went for a stroll on the beach, enjoying the sea breeze and the amazing gift of a summer's day, and Larry said to us, "You know, this is such a nice place. Everyone is so friendly. I've never had so many strangers smile at me." It was as if everyone knew my little brother and could discern his fine attributes.
Then Rick pointed out that Larry had tucked his smile-on-a-stick into the breast pocket of his shirt. He'd been walking around like that, and that little smile-on-a-stick was evoking grins and nods and giggles from passersby.
That's all it took. A smile as a pocketsquare.
We've all heard it countless times - you get what you give, reap what you sow, do unto others. And we seem to really struggle with what that actually means, and how to implement it. As it turns out, it is as simple as giving people a reason to smile. Because in the end, they want to. They want to smile at you and laugh with you and mill about in the mist of gratitude and pleasure for the life we share.
But sometimes it requires an invitation. A smile for a pocketsquare.
I'll admit I am sometimes terrible at this. My pocketsquare is often a complaint, or anxiety about getting where I'm going on time, or anger that other people simply refuse to behave the I want them to. And that's what I get back from them. But I'm working on it.
I challenge you to conduct an experiment of your own. Give people a reason to smile, a reason to be open and warm toward you. You go first. And then let's just see if that doesn't change your experience of the world and the people in it.
Let a smile be your pocketsquare for a day, or an hour, or even just for a single trip to the grocery store. Then come back and let me know how it went. I'll be here waiting.
I'll be the one smiling.
Julie Scipioni is the co-author of the Amazon #1 bestselling novel series,