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If A Smile Is What You Need Right Now, Please Read This …

I have some good news and some bad news.

Let’s get it out of the way and go bad news first: It’s still 2020 and we’ve got more than four months to go ‘til we flip the calendar, close the books, and begin anew.

Four long months. Ugh. But at least we have a holiday a month to look forward to. 

But there’s also some good news …

No, I don’t have a vaccine. You haven’t won the Lotto. And, no, the political campaign season hasn’t ended. My good news isn’t even diamond-in-the-rough stuff because that implies you serendipitously stumble across something other-worldly wonderful. It’s not quite that.

But then again, maybe it is.

This isn’t a news flash. It doesn’t demand a drum roll or trumpeting fanfare. But it’s worth sharing: There’s goodness all around us.

That’s it. That’s my good news. There’s goodness all around us.

I know, you’re officially underwhelmed but don’t be because there’s goodness all around us. But to see it, embrace it and share it, we may have to first push aside a few things, turn off the news, bow out of cheeky chatter, maybe unfurl the yoga mat and re-ground ourselves. 

It’s so easy to get sucked into the vile vortex that has branded 2020 as a year to forget. [Paradoxically, a year whose numbers implied focus, clarity and vision has been anything but.]

So, don’t go there. And if you’re already there, extract yourself. Come back to a place where smiles not only come easily but they spread like a good kind of virus. For when we slow down and look around, we realize goodness sprouts like a million little seedlings all around us.

So in no particular order, I’d like to share with you a small collection of goodness-in-action stories that I’ve personally experienced or heard about; nuggets that warmed my heart in a year when all hearts need some warming. Here goes …

CELEBRATION, FL – My oldest son recently turned four, but obviously traditional birthday gatherings are on the back-burner. Improvising, we made arrangements for a surprise drive-by for Eddison. Three Osceola County Sheriff’s patrol cars drove slowly by our house with lights flashing. One even played the Happy Birthday tune over the loud-speaker. At a time when cops are being pilloried, these public servants were working hard to create a lifelong memory. And to add a little moo to the ado, the Chick-fil-A cow even made an appearance, not only surprising Eddison but making me feel like a true Southerner!

BROOKLYN, NY – In a high-rise apartment building where scads of elderly folks live, a kind soul named Amanda Bateman recently posted a sign-up sheet in the lobby with the following: With Coronavirus anxieties rising right now, I thought it may be a nice idea to have a sign-up for those in the building who are less vulnerable and willing to help out our neighbors who are.

The left column read Residents looking to help, the right column read Residents looking for help. The sheet quickly filled with names, unit numbers and contact info as those comfortable with venturing out picked up prescriptions, did grocery shopping, and ran miscellaneous errands for others. The final line on the sign-up sheet: Let’s take care of each other. Indeed.

MARIETTA, GA – On a recent weekend in the overnight hours, someone left notecards on all 96 mailboxes in a subdivision. Each envelope had a small magnet attached to the back so it could be placed on top of the mailbox. The cover of the notecard was a metallic gold array of cheery flowers. Inside, the scratchy, rolling-downhill handwriting read:

Hello Neighbor:

With all the things going on right now, I thought it would be nice to send a note to say hi and thank you for being our neighbor. I hope you are well and staying safe. Have a great weekend.

The card wasn’t signed, adding a touch of intrigue and magic. Penmanship held all the signs of a school-aged child. Maybe it was a home-schooling assignment from a Mom or Dad teaching a curriculum based on kindness. Within hours, the subdivision’s Facebook page was flooded with appreciative comments and confessions of teary-eyed reactions. Many said the note immediately found a home on the family refrigerator. “It serves as a friendly reminder that, in the grand scheme of things, we’re all neighbors,” one person posted.

UNITED KINGDOM – In my native U.K., people would gather on a Thursday night at 8 o’clock to “Clap for our Carers” and show support for front-line medical workers. Children helped to raise money for the National Health Service by doing the Hokey-Cokey, our version of America’s Hokey-Pokey. Others sang and played musical instruments. It was all designed to elicit smiles and applause, a weekly round-of-appreciation for healthcare professionals and key workers who were working too hard to take time to put the left arm in, pull the left arm out.

In addition, many U.K. children show appreciation for first-responders and other vital service workers by displaying rainbows in the windows of their homes. Colorful arcs are appearing everywhere … handcrafted, knitted, painted, colored or crocheted. Others went the extra mile and decorated their home, brick-by-brick, with multicolored sidewalk chalk. Making someone’s day, or simply reminding them they’re loved and honored, by displaying rainbows is worth any pot of gold anywhere.

CELEBRATION, FL – Two years ago, I started painting rocks, some with motivational sayings, others with cute designs or popular cartoon characters. I hid them around town and posted clues and photos on our Facebook page hinting at where the rocks had been secretly stashed.

After a while, life got in the way with my kids needing more of my time, so my much-loved hobby fell by the wayside. But a few weeks ago, a neighbor lady picked up the effort and, once again, I’m back painting stones alongside her in hopes of lifting spirits by creating a little mysterious fun. [Recently painted stones include Disney characters wearing protective masks.]

The “About” message on our Facebook page describes our Mission: Painting/coloring stones to hide around the town with the aim of making someone smile. Paint them, hide them, find them, share them. Keep it going … [Feel free to search Smile Stones Celebration” on Facebook and join, or follow, the fun!]

Recently, several of my neighbors put together a socially distanced, drive-through Rockin’ & Rollin’ Mobile Concert. A map was sent out in advance with the planned route so neighbors could gather on their lawns and jam out as the musicians passed by! Also in Celebration, many of my neighbors volunteered time, materials and skills to create protective masks when they were in short supply.

I could go on and on with little anecdotes and stories of random acts of kindness, they’re everywhere! The key is to slow down, breathe, chill and open your eyes. I promise you, you will find them and when you do, you will smile and know, indeed, we will get through this together.

When times get tough, remember … there’s goodness all around us. Always.


Chloe Gibbons