This blog is to celebrate and honor those who helped me on my journey to healing. This particular story is not about a therapist, counselor, psychiatrist or other mental health professional but is just as important. He’s a perfect stranger who reached out to me, and made a difference in my life!
In my senior year of high school, I went to 4 different schools. It was a very sad year. Well most of my life was very sad up to that point, but I began to take more drastic measures to end my life. I had been in two different psych hospitals as I was very depressed and suicidal. One of the high schools, I don’t remember which one, I walked down the halls with the saddest and most dejected look upon my face. I had no reason to smile, to look up or look to my future. I’m just going to list the high schools: Morningside, Crenshaw, La Habra (at the psych hospital), and Inglewood. They’re all in Southern California and I didn’t live in the best of neighborhoods. I was very depressed, living in foster homes and eventually a group home.
Many of the schools, I didn’t know anyone and I was very lonely. I didn’t want to be there either. I just wanted to die. As I said, I looked very sad and dejected. There was a janitor at one of the schools I walked by everyday on the way to my classes. At first, he just looked at me, as if to acknowledge my presence. Then, as the days went by, he smiled at me. Eventually, he said “hello Smilie!” I kept walking, but I turned around to look at him and see if he was talking to me. He winked at me! Lol. Then I started to smile back at him. I gleamed from ear to ear. I didn’t know anyone, it didn’t change my circumstances, but he was someone to smile at and to recognize me. I was noticed! It was the very beautiful and precious to me. So I became known as Smilie.
Later that year, in the Army, at book camp and at my job training, I was also known as “Smilie.” The drill sergeants loved to drop me to give them 10 pushups if I was smiling too much. You especially was not allowed to smile at the drill sergeants. The Army was about serious business, but I was still smiling! By the way, I loved the Army. I did need to get clearance from several Doctors to make sure I was psychologically fit to join. In my basic training book, full of photos like a year book, everyone including the drill sergeants said they loved my smile and positive attitude.
To this day, I am grateful to that janitor who taught me to smile.
Nowadays I strive to smile at everyone I meet. If I’m not smiling and someone smiles at me, I receive it. It’s important to me to reach out to others, to give a friendly smile or nod of the head. You never know who’s day you might brighten or lighten someone’s load. if you need a smile, look in the mirror. An important exercise I learned to love myself is look in the mirror and smile at myself, even if I don’t like myself, or I feel depressed. I also say, “Sophia, I love you!!” Smile!