Just Smile & Wave

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“Just smile and wave, boys, smile and wave.” – Skipper (The Penguins of Madagascar)

If you’ve watched any significant amount of episodes (as I have) of the hilariously endearing spin-off from Madagascar featuring its four famous penguins, you’ll probably find the title of this post slightly familiar.

Used by their leader Skipper to instruct his men to put on a friendly and innocent facade, my following use of this phrase will inevitably come across as completely out of context. So let’s throw penguins out of the picture for now and get on to my point, shall we?

It’s a new year and we all have resolutions. Most will include some form of sustained regular exercise, financial improvement & moral correction (read: run more, earn more, do some good). When you think about it, how often do our resolutions really impact, benefit or involve other people? They’re always about us and what we want to do better or different or more.

So I was thinking, since we’re all caught up in this habit of selfish resolutions that ain’t easy to break out of, how can we start off small?

And then the brilliant (albeit non-contextual) words of Skipper came to mind, “Just smile and wave, boys”! Think of that old uncle you walk past everyday at your void deck; the cleaner aunty you sweep by without a glance; the security guard outside your work place who always looks like he’s falling asleep — could they do with a simple smile and wave?

I’ll admit that in an Asian context, to crack a smile to a somewhat-stranger seems utterly embarrassing, if not inappropriate. But in the few times I’ve tried it, I have always received a smile back. Smiling, somehow, is part of the human reflex — if someone smiles at you, you can’t help but smile back, and then the original smiler feels even happier in return, and… well, you get the picture. It’s the absolute antonym of a “vicious cycle”. Happy cycle?

My own experience involves the cleaner aunty in our church, whom we see almost every week, diligently cleaning the place and making sure we enjoy our church-going activities. Have you ever smiled at her or said hello, let alone had a conversation with her? In a workplace surrounded by God-loving Christians, it seems tragically ironic that she looks so alone and ignored most of the time. I’ll admit that my interactions with her struggle to go beyond a smile, hello and “你吃饱了吗?”, but I can tell that even simple things like that really make her feel better, because she always looks unbelievably happy to see me, even though I don’t do much.

If everyone could just take the trouble to flex those cheek and arm muscles, we could all do a little to make someone’s day, week or even life better. You never know.

So make it a tiny resolution to smile and wave at someone this year.

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