Yesterday, October 2nd, was World Smile Day. I hadn’t ever come across World Smile Day until I was doing a bit of research into International Days. There are so many International Days that there is just about one for every day of the year, but this one, World Smile Day, is certainly worth celebrating. Especially in these uncertain times when we can become overwhelmed with anxiety, fear and despair.
The first World Smile Day was held in 1999 and was the idea of Harvey Ball, the creator of the happy face image. The central idea of World Smile Day is to spread smiles and happiness through acts of kindness and there is a long list of suggested activities for celebrating the day. Unfortunately Covid 19 makes some of them a bit tricky, however the one that stood out to me was Sidewalk Chalk Activities. It reminded me of the early days of Covid 19 restrictions and the chalk drawings that started appearing on footpaths around Australia.
We first came across the chalk messages when Dan and I would take a walk around our local streets. In those first weeks, when many community places were out of bounds, getting some daily exercise took a little more forethought. Being restricted to our homes made us realise how much we missed human contact with those outside our immediate families, so meeting fellow walkers was often the highlight of the day. Even though we would veer left and they would veer right to maintain our social distancing, we were always greeted with a smile. The chalk messages also put a smile on our face. Many of them were done by children and featured hearts, flowers and the encouragement to Stay Safe. It spread the message that we were all in this together.
During Covid 19 we have learned to do many things online, from working and studying, to shopping and therapy, but after a while doing everything online soon loses its appeal. Chalk drawings were a simple, creative and cheap activity that got us outside and provided an opportunity for one little act of kindness and encouragement. The chalk messages were a simple way to show that we could still connect with each other “old school.”
Chalk Art also found its way into our Carnival of Flowers this year. Throughout September four local artists were involved in creating chalk floral masterpieces in Queens Park. Due to Covid 19, the Carnival of Flowers was celebrated on a much smaller scale, without the usual parade, side show alley and Wine and Music festival, however the Toowoomba Council and local businesses have found many innovative and simple ways to celebrate the beauty of flowers. Chalk Art is just one of them. It’s interesting to see how such a simple idea like chalk messages has been taken up to become a symbol of hope and a feature in community and cultural celebrations.
2020 has been a strange year in many respects. Confined to our homes we have learned to enjoy simple pleasures like doing puzzles, reading and craft activities. We have learned to appreciate the importance of good health, family and friends, the health practitioners working on the front lines and the researchers working on a vaccine. Small acts of kindness and messages to stay safe are among the many things that have put a smile on our face. As long as we can smile, we have hope.
May we always appreciate the simple things in life, find ways to show kindness and a reason to smile.