Select Page

Contributed by Jim Nelson, consultant to CAIRE Inc. ~

How long has it been since you smiled at a stranger for no particular reason? Conversely, how long has it been since a stranger smiled at you? There is, in my opinion, way too little of that sort of thing going on.

Admittedly, we live in the Boulder, Colorado area for a good part of the year. Boulder, if you are not familiar with it, is progressive, pretty easy-going, and generally a nice place to live. Smiles are more common around Boulder than they are in, say, the subways of New York. Smiling at someone in the subway will likely garner you a look of suspicion, while a smile on Pearl Street Mall in Boulder will very likely gather one in return.

Comedian George Burns said that he tried letting “A Smile Be Your Umbrella” once, and it resulted in a case of pneumonia and the shrinking of a $450 suit. Maybe not a great idea, but in general a smile will result in feelings of well-being. Endorphins released into your brain simply make you feel better.

If you are walking in the woods alone and you feel like smiling for some reason, go for it! It will likely increase your sense of contentment. If that same smile is shared with someone else, it could actually change their life. It costs you nothing, but it may truly enrich the recipient. It is of no value to anyone else until it is given away.

Smiling reduces stress. If smiling is the very last thing that you want to do, try it anyway. You might be surprised!

I started a campaign a few months ago called “Thumbs Up,” whereby anyone encountered wearing an oxygen cannula or using crutches or a wheelchair was to be rewarded by a smile and a raised thumb. I have approached and talked to dozens of patients who have been brave enough to appear in public with their particular medical appliance. Without exception, they have been receptive and delighted with the attention.

A smile takes only a few seconds, but the effects of it may linger for long after the brief encounter. Are you the one wearing the cannula or the brace or the cast? Wander around smiling at everyone that you see. Many will happily return the favor, and only a few will wonder just what you are up to.

Finally, smiling is truly a universal language! I am truly monolingual. I tried to learn conversational Spanish some years ago. Twice. No luck! I memorized and practiced and formed simple sentences and worked up a bit of confidence. I would then go to the store and listen for anyone speaking Spanish and follow them around for a bit. I couldn’t understand a word!

However, I can and do smile at someone who is speaking another language, and I will generally get one in return. There is not nearly enough of that going around …

~ Uncle Jim

Jim Nelson is a double lung transplant recipient and a patient advocate for COPD patients throughout the U.S. and around the world. He and his wife, Mary, are well known patient advocates and brand ambassadors for those organizations who tirelessly endeavor to help those individuals who suffer from a variety of respiratory diseases and the caregivers who support them. 

If you have been prescribed oxygen therapy, learn more about CAIRE by visiting or calling 1-877-704-0878 to talk to an oxygen advisor. When using any oxygen therapy device please consult the applicable product instructions for use for product indications, contraindications, warnings, precautions, and detailed safety information.