“And don’t forget to smile!”

One of my closest friends wraps up her voice mail greeting with that advice. Americans are often accused of smiling too much in public. Considering that most foreigners see mainly Americans on vacations, that’s a skewed sample, but even at home, most people here smile a lot. Why shouldn’t they?

A typical movie about war or disaster starts with a brief sample of normalcy. A family at breakfast might be shown, parents worried over something insignificant, kids bickering over something equally petty. Then, five minutes into the story, a war begins, or an earthquake happens, or hungry aliens land, and all the previous concerns suddenly seem very small by comparison.

Think about your own day. Did you wake up healthy, able-minded and in a first-world country? That’s an excellent start. Are people close to you, family and friends, generally doing ok? That, in itself, is a reason to smile.

Do you have problems? We all do. Are they generally surmountable through your own efforts? That’s true for most of us. Again, that’s reason sufficient for happiness.

It can always be worse. You could wake up with chronic pain. You could wake up to incoming artillery barrage. You could wake up in North Korea or some other trashcanistan with closed borders. Your kid or best friend could be down with incurable disease. Have a sense of perspective. Save your frowns for those days.

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