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Reader-submitted “smiley dispenser” poster + the “Take a smile” movement April 12, 2012

Posted by Samuel Snoek-Brown in Public art, signs, & graffiti, Reader submission, Smiley.
Tags: , , , ,

"Smiley Dispenser." From the Smiley Company; submitted by Smiley Italia.

My new Facebook friend Smiley Italia sent this to me yesterday. It seems to come from the Smiley Company, but it’s not the first time I’ve seen something like this — I’ve caught sight of posters like this in hallways in real life, and several months ago, another friend of mine, Barbara, sent me a different version that you might be more familiar with as a popular Internet meme:

A quick perusal of Google images turns up several other variations, some of which look like these:

It’s such a wonderful concept, the idea that instead of a phone number for a babysitter or a guy selling his guitar, you can simply take a smile with you. I wondered where it started, but there doesn’t seem to be an origin story for this one — it’s one of those collective unconscious things that dozens of people thought up more or less simultanously and enacted spontaneously. Like the smile itself! 🙂

But while I was nosing around looking for an explanation of the “take one” phenomenon, I found a wonderful story about how “The Smile Experiment” worked in one religious educational community: “I figured, at the very least, that it would bring a passing smile to someone’s face who walked by,” writes Jewish Week online columnist Rabbi Marci N. Bellows. “Within a few days, they were all gone!”

The kids really seem to like them. When my door is closed, and they don’t necessarily know I’m working inside, the religious school students walk over and discuss the smiles. I heard one girl remark, “I took one and hung it up on my bedroom wall!” I heard another student ask his friend, “Hey, did you get one yet?” And other students seem to like knowing that I am smiling at them, even while they are home.

The adults have resonated, as well. After particularly challenging pastoral appointments, where a few tissues may have been used, some of my visitors have liked taking a smile home with them. Some of the Bar/Bat Mitzvah parents like the few moments of relief from party-planning stress that the smile affords. And some of the other staff in the building even take a smile home with them!

It seems like such a simple — even simplistic — idea. It’s just a piece of paper, after all. Why do we take such pleasure in seeing the smiley face up on the public wall? And, even more tellingly, why do we resort to taking one of the little tabs of smiley-face paper with us when we leave?

According to Rabbi Bellows, it’s about community — about communication and about communion. “I think that, at the risk of over-generalizing, the smiley-face pieces of paper symbolize the comfort and optimism that we find among the Jewish community.” Or, I would extrapolate, in any community to which we belong or want to belong. Knowing that someone, somewhere — even a perfect stranger — has a little happiness to spare and wants to share it with you, and you, and you over there, can have a fantastic emotional impact. Which is, after all, the point of this blog: the share the happiness!

“I pray that we each find something this week that will give us even the smallest bit of comfort, or even the tiniest hint of a smile, when we are otherwise feeling overwhelmed by the weight of the challenges we face,” Rabbi Bellows concludes. “May we remember that we are never alone, and that there is always someone out there who can help us, who can be with us, and who can remind us how to smile.”

My friends Smiley Italia and Barbara — and other regular smiley sharers like Crystal and Debbie and Dylan, and my friends at SmileyStore.com, and my relatives, and you readers, and so many, many others! — are out there, ready with a smile to share with you.

Do you have a smile you want to share with us? Find us on Facebook or leave a comment here!



1. Heather - April 12, 2012

I like this a lot. Might just have to hang one on my classroom door. Thanks for sharing, Sam.

Samuel Snoek-Brown - April 12, 2012

If you do, let me know how the students like it! 🙂

2. Putting a Giant Smile on my Life | Tasithoughts's Weblog - April 24, 2012

[…] Reader-submitted “smiley dispenser” poster + the “Take a smile” movement (unclesmiley.wordpress.com) […]

3. Rabbi Marci Bellows - October 9, 2012

Wow- thank you for including my article! I’m so glad that you enjoyed it. Keep up the important work!!

Samuel Snoek-Brown - October 9, 2012

Wow back at you! I’m so happy you could join the smiling faces over here! And yes, I loved your article — thank you so much for writing it! 🙂

4. niki - January 7, 2015


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