Never stop smiling

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“Now, it’s my turn to tell you stories,” Molly said as she settled into the empty train seat beside me. For over an hour, the seat was occupied by Fred, a tourist who shared more information about Dresden with me than I’ve learned in over three years of living there. “Fred tells me you’ve been married for 55 years,” I said. “You’ve gotta tell me what kept the fire burning for so long”. It may have been presumptuous for me to assume the fire was still burning. But I wasn’t assuming. At 75, Molly was still finishing Fred’s sentences and Fred (79) still called her ‘baby’. You couldn’t put a price on any of their smiles as they told me about their last few weeks driving across Europe in a car-house, meeting new people and attending concerts together. “Never stop smiling” Molly replied. “It’s as simple as that”.

Although this was a piece of marriage advice, I couldn’t help but imagine how non-stop smiling could sustain friendships and work relationships too. Non-stop smiling doesn’t mean keeping a grin round the clock even when it doesn’t feel right or letting others walk all over you because you never get upset. It means leaning more towards the positives than the negatives, appreciating the good sides of people, and cutting them some slack when they make mistakes. It means keeping an open mind, being cheerful, and dealing with setbacks in an us-versus-the-problem rather than a me-versus-you manner. It means sharing the blame where possible because no one is perfect.

I know this is a tough call, especially in today’s corporate world where being firm, confident, and self-promoting is crucial. However, those traits and putting up a smile are not opposite sides of a coin. We’re humans first before anything else.

It was an honour to share the long train ride with Fred and Molly (not their real names). Apart from the crucial lessons they taught me, the experience made me realise how important it is to leave my earphones in my pockets, close my novel and just interact with the people around me. You never know who you might meet.

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