From Chicken Soup for the Soul at Work

Search for a Smile and Share It

If you’re not using your smile, you’re like a man with a million dollars in the bank and no checkbook.

Les Giblin

It was a typical Wednesday. My wife and I were speaking in a nursing home about our successful recovery from a heart attack. Afterward, one of the residents, Miriam, asked if we had a few minutes to talk.

“I’ve always thought to be happy I need three things: someone to love, something to do and something to look forward to,” she said. “I’ve got people here to love, and the activities keep me as busy as I want, but I don’t have anything I’m looking forward to. Do you have any ideas?”

“What did you look forward to before you came here?” we asked.

“Oh, I used to love to laugh with others,” Miriam said.

“What did you laugh about?” we asked.

“Everything I could see, hear, feel, taste or smell,” she said with a smile.

At that very moment, we got the idea to start our project. We began looking for humor, and we used all of our senses.

We started with a poster that said: Life is too important to be taken seriously. We found a button that read: Enjoy life. This is not a dress rehearsal. On a teabag was the message: You are like this tea bag . . . only in hot water do you realize how strong you are.

We continued searching and found cartoons, videos and audiocassettes filled with humor. People brought us bumper stickers, illustrations, books, games, comic strips and magazines. We put together humor baskets with books, tapes, greeting cards and toys for children of all ages. Stuffed animals were ever popular, followed by Slinkies and Kusch balls. And no basket was complete without bubbles to blow.

Of course, we made a humor basket for Miriam, the woman who had started us on this project. She told us that the highlight of her day was sharing the contents of her basket with others: residents, visitors . . . anyone she saw. Someone said what she was doing was searching for a smile and sharing it. So, that’s what we called our project, “Search for a Smile and Share it.”

The project was so successful that other facilities got wind of it and made special requests.

One nursing home asked us to make a humor cart, like a shopping cart. Volunteers push this down the hallways, sharing smiles and laughs with many residents. Still another nursing home requested that we design a humor room, complete with a VCR for fun videos. Soon families began donating favorite videos like Sports Bloopers, Candid Camera, and Carol Burnett and Johnny Carson skits.

What started as a simple gesture to help one elderly woman turned into a lifetime project.

Miriam has gone to her final reward now, but when we last saw her she had a sign on her nursing home door: Happy Is the Woman Who Can Laugh at Herself. She Shall Never Cease to Be Amused.

John Murphy

The name Miriam is a pseudonym.

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