put a smile on.

this basically sums up exactly how i feel right now:

i've had a really trying weekend, in a number of ways. but one of the most important things i've come to realize is that this is true: we're all here for a reason. we're all here for some purpose, to do something. obviously we're here to experience life and have fun etc etc etc, but i really honestly believe that together, we're all a part of something great.

as cheesy as it is, i want to say thank you to all those who have been there for me this weekend: those who've put up with me; talked to me; smiled at me; or even those who just let me have my space. it was all exactly how i needed it, exactly when i needed it. you are some of the most beautiful people i know. thank you so much.

it's obviously late and i need to get some sleep eventually, but i felt like it was worth my time to say thank you. simple as that. how many people do we interact with daily that we should thank? probably more than we can count. for one, you've got your parents- they're the whole reason you're alive in the first place. then, you've got your friends- they've helped+influenced you to become who you are today [for better/for worse]. and on an even broader scale, you've got your teachers- they've raised you up and taught you countless things from your multiplication tables and how to write in cursive to international relations and calculus.

last but certainly not least [if you're even slightly religious], you've got God to thank. for literally, everything. he made the earth; he created man [+woman!]; he provided and still provides us to this day with what i believe to be the most beautiful aspect of this world besides the people who inhabit it: nature. he created everything from the towering mountains here out west to niagra falls; the amazon rainforest to the nile river; the trees, the shrubs, the plants, animals, grass, desert, beaches, flowers, hills, sunrises and sunsets; you name it, he made it. it's funny how i know that He's done + continues to do sososo ridiculously much for me daily, yet i rarely remember to thank him. but there's more you can do to thank him besides just praying and constantly keeping a prayer in your heart.

"when ye are in the service of your fellow beings, ye are only in the service of your God."

not to get all churchy or anything, but it's true. service is one of the best ways to develop that closeness with God and really express your thanks while helping other people out.

and it doesn't even have to be anything big; no one starts off donating millions of dollars to support schools in south africa [although kudos to those who can and do]. it's by small and simple means. just help some kid out who drops his books in between classes; offer to go grocery shopping for your family; smile. you'd be surprised what a long way one simple smile can go.

three or four summers ago i attended a week-long youth to youth [drug+alcohol free group] conference in northern ohio that was filled with lectures, workshops, dances, discussions, and a lot of peer-to-peer interaction with teenagers from all across the united states. i remember one of the lectures specifically: it was an older man talking about the lack of love in the world today. he told a story about a young man in the 1970s who was severely depressed and had been contemplating suicide. one day he walked the entire one mile distance from his apartment to the golden gate bridge and jumped off; ending his life right then and there. his doctor, upon receiving the news of his patient's death, visited this man's apartment and noticed that he had written a note and left it on his bureau. it read, "i'm going to walk to the bridge. if one person smiles at me on the way, i will not jump."

how disheartening is this to hear? that someone can walk 20-30 minutes, passing by at least hundreds of people on the crowded streets of san fransisco, california, and have not one person smile at him; the one act that could've quite literally saved his life?

this story touched me and so many of the other kids that heard this wonderfully-delivered speech. the older man ended with the challenge to all of us (this was the first day of five that we'd be at this conference) to reach out to everyone we see, even the people we don't know; to simply smile at them and tell everyone "you're beautiful."

and funny as it might sound.. we did it. the entire rest of that week, it was impossible to even go through the lunch line or walk across the campus without someone smiling at you or randomly shouting across a room "you're beautiful!" everyone from chaperones to students; girls to boys; african americans to whites; literally everyone at this conference was infected by, needless to say, the "love bug." and what a beautiful sight it was. it was almost weird coming home after that week and not being able to just openly shout out to some stranger in the grocery line "oh hey, you're beautiful!" ..weird, right? but the message stuck with me anyway. and since that week, i've made more of an effort to smile when i make eye contact with someone; or even when i'm talking to someone else and i recognize someone passing by- i'll just say "hey" quickly and tack on a smile. you really don't know what a big difference it can make.

so take the challenge yourself: you don't have to tell everyone you see that they're beautiful, but just.. smile at someone tomorrow. and the next day. and the day after that. smile at someone when you're walking to class or when you're passing by them in the hallway. don't be that person that sees someone walking towards them that they don't recognize, so they awkwardly look the other way or pretend that there's something that "coincidentally" caught their eye.. in the complete opposite direction. i know i've been there; maybe you have been too. but now's the time to make a change, and make a difference. go ahead, take the risk; smile. everyone knows that smiles are contagious.

and let's face it: that is one bug that i don't think anyone would mind catching.
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