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Unexpected smiles

| Friday, December 3, 2021

We’ve all heard the cliché “be the reason somebody smiles today,” but how often do we take the time to stop and think about what made us smile today?

I had a professor at the beginning of the semester begin our first discussion section by asking us to share an “unexpected smile” from the week. For a moment, no one knew what to say. My classmates and I sat there in complete silence as we all racked our brains trying to remember something positive that happened during the week. Then, the stories started coming. Everyone shared a unique story about how someone complimented their outfit or how a professor made a joke that he thought was funny but no one else did. As everyone shared these moments of unanticipated happiness, I realized how often I forget to stop at the end of my day and think about the small moments of joy that made my day just a little bit better. This isn’t a groundbreaking realization, but now it’s a common practice of my day to take a minute and think about what my “unexpected smile” was.

As college students, it’s easy to wish the days away, wanting the weekend to come faster. Now, as the end of the semester approaches, we are doing the same thing: Eagerly awaiting winter break and for classes to finally be over. But are we so focused on the future that we aren’t taking the time to stop and think about the day we just had? Are we so anxious about our imminent final exams, essays and presentations that we aren’t taking the time to recognize the positive moments of every day?

As human beings, we have so many different experiences that shape our lives in meaningful ways, but we often fail to notice them. It’s an easy task to just take a moment and find a little joy in your day, and now, more than ever, it’s important to do that. Even more, we should stop and think about what we are doing to make other people smile every day. Are you holding the door open for someone as they’re leaving a building? Maybe you’re sending a text to check in on a family member or you’re having dinner at the dining hall with a friend you haven’t seen in a while. Even on a bad day when it doesn’t seem that way, there are plenty of reasons to smile.

So, I challenge you to take the time at the end of your day to stop and reflect on what made you smile unexpectedly and what you are doing to make others smile unexpectedly. Whatever it was that made you smile today, that little moment of joy brightened your day, and that’s important to recognize. We all have the power to spread some positivity amidst the stressful few weeks we have left here on campus. Let’s focus on the good of each day and know that, while we will be happily spending time with loved ones over the holidays, we are all here together right now at Notre Dame, pushing through the rest of the semester together, and we can contribute to small moments of happiness that make life better for everyone.

Remember that there are an infinite number of reasons to smile during the day, and just as many ways to make somebody else smile. I invite you to take some time to think about this as we finish out the semester. I’ll even ask you now: What was your “unexpected smile” today?

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