Have you ever smiled at a baby who smiled back?
It's a pretty wonderful feeling.
And it's something I do every chance I get (so far no parents have thought I was crazy...at least...I don't think... ;))
I travel a lot and there are a lot of little kids flying in and out of my hometown airport (also the hometown of a famous mouse).
And I love to smile at them. Because they always smile back. And it makes me happy, which is especially helpful during what can sometimes be the stressful hustle and bustle of travel.
One of the reasons babies smile back, so I've read, are because of mirror neurons. It's the same thing that makes you model the expressions and emotions of people in movies (stop and notice your expression during a sad part of a movie...mirror neurons are for real!)
But I think it's also something else. Now I don't know exactly what babies are thinking, but I do think there'ssomething to the power of human attention. A smile with eye contact says, "I see you; you matter." I think, from cradle-to-grave, that is something we all crave every day.
And while I spend a lot of time speaking to faculty and staff about the importance of these kinds of habits when working with students, I also think it's something you can practice on campus.
I'm not saying to walk through campus with some big fake smile plastered on your face (that would be creepy...) but I am saying, smile even when you don't feel like it. Notice people around you.
Instead of burying your face in your phone while walking to class and waiting around for the professor, try looking up and giving someone a small, authentic smile. Something that says "Hi, I'm not crazy, I swear, just nice, just trying something this crazy blogger lady put into my head...also, I see you; you matter." ;)
Seriously, though. Try this.
When I was in high school I once read in a magazine that the best way to be popular was to smile. It wasn't talking about the kind of "popular" that requires money or rebellion. It was the kind where a lot of people, from all different walks of life and cliques, genuinely like you because you show that you care about them. You make them feel important.
You have more power on your campus than you realize to affect things. The first section of my book is about "Peers" for a reason. You matter on your campus, and the way you show up and the attitude you bring affects others around you.
You never know who might be on the brink of dropping out. Who might be going through a family tragedy. Or who might have just gotten a soul-crushing test grade.
Smile at people. Make them feel important. There are more students on your campus than you know who are just dying for someone to "say:"
I see you; you matter.