By Terry Alburger, Acts Life Engagement Coordinator

Anyone who knows me knows that I am the “List Queen.” In preparation for a trip, event or vacation, I have detailed lists to guide me. My lists are specific, categorized and thoroughly organized in spreadsheet form.

But the most important item that I take everywhere I go does not appear on any lists. Above all else, I bring a smile.

This small but mighty item is one of the most powerful things a person can bring. It is something that benefits not just the wearer but also all those around. Smiles are infectious. They are contagious. It costs nothing to share with others, yet it is a gift that goes right to the heart of its recipients and also brightens the day of the giver.

Having been on both sides of smiles, I can tell you that it is a win/win. Everyone in this world carries burdens and feels stress, many of which are not visible from the outside. Some days sadness or loneliness can overwhelm a person. But a random encounter with someone offering a friendly smile can actually change the course of someone’s day. It may be just what he or she needed. And as they walk away from you, maybe they feel just a little less alone, a little less sad.

Of course, a smile is just the beginning. It opens a door where perhaps there had previously been a solid wall. Follow up a smile with “How are you doing today?” or even “It’s great to see you.” Now you’ve extended a bridge of communication and offered a friendly hand. You have made a difference. And it cost you nothing.

But wait, there’s more! I’ve noticed that by smiling, you yourself feel joy. You yourself are the beneficiary. When you smile, you release endorphins, causing a feeling of euphoria. These little neurotransmitters are triggered by the movements in your face when you smile. Endorphins are known to reduce stress levels and make people feel happy. Endorphins are also natural pain killers. So it is no surprise that smiling, on a biological level, makes people feel better. I believe this is why we tend to gravitate to people who make us laugh. It makes us feel good.

Recently, I lost someone very dear to me. I didn’t get to see him very often, but when I did, I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that there would be smiles, that he’d share jokes and amusing stories and the results would invariably be belly laughs. His pleasant countenance made him a joy to be around from the time I was a small child until just a few weeks ago when I saw him for the last time. While I have always tried to be an upbeat person, I have decided to honor my uncle by smiling more often. Yes, he would most definitely approve.

So, you see, it’s important to bring a smile wherever you go. By bringing a smile with you, you will bring a smile to the faces of others. After all, as Ghandi said, we should all “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

A world full of smiles? Yes, please!

Terry Alburger is the Life Engagement Coordinator at Brittany Pointe Estates, an Acts Retirement-Life Community in Lansdale, Pennsylvania. This column was published online by Montgomery Media on May 16, 2018.