Greet Everyone With a Cheerful Face
This past year a dear friend of mine was diagnosed with cancer. One of the hardest things, she admitted was going out in public, NOT because she was worried about infection, but because people so often greeted her with their ‘sad faces’. “I always feel like I have to comfort them!” she would say.
You might have experienced this: perhaps you are mourning a loss, struggling with an illness, or in the midst of a very hard time in your life. You’re having an okay day, holding your emotions in check and doing just fine. You encounter a well-meaning acquaintance, who upon seeing you puts on their saddest face and asks with pronounced expression “How ARE you!” You promptly burst into tears, and hold yourself back from saying “I was just fine until you gave me your sad face!”
There is good reason that the rabbis teach in Pirkei Avot (1:15): Greet every human being with a cheerful face. “If we give our fellow human being all of the gifts in the world but with a downcast face, it is considered as if we gave them nothing at all. But if we greet another with a warm and cheerful face, even though we are unable to give him anything, it is considered as we gave them all of the most valuable gifts in the world”. (Avot D'Rabbi Natan 13).
That cheerful face is a gift of love and caring, which can lift the spirits of the person we are greeting. When you greet someone with your cheerful face, you get the same in return. As Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch (German rabbi of the 1800’s, a father of Modern Orthodoxy) once wrote: "A smile costs nothing, but gives much.
There is some science at work here. When we smile, the brain releases endorphins which make us feel happy and content, which in turn leads to more happy feelings and smiling. In other words, one smile leads to another. When you greet everyone with a cheerful face, you increase happiness all around.
There is good reason that the lyricist Joe Goodwin and his penned this famous song:
When you're smiling
When you're smiling
The whole world smiles with you
And that artists from Billie Holliday to Louis Armstrong made the song part of their repertoire. .
Hope this leaves you with a smile to pass on!