World War II ended in 1945. A world, ready for peace that unfortunately did not come with the close of the war, reeled under the new dynamic created by atomic warfare. The United States had exposed humanity to the horribly destructive power of the atomic bomb by crippling Nagasaki and Hiroshima. The Soviet Union, an ally of the United States during the war, now became a rival as they also developed their atomic arsenal.
At a time when the comfort of peace was so needed, the uncertainty of the Cold War settled in. Spies from both countries infiltrated organizations and attempted to wreak havoc. In the United States, a Salem-esque era of witch-hunts ensued as the country attempted to safeguard itself against Soviet spies. The result was that some who were innocent and guilty were convicted along with true perpetrators.
It was during this time that Edward R. Murrow, along with some colleagues, determined to produce “This I Believe”. Originally a radio program, it evolved into written essays gathered into collections by prominent and less prominent Americans invited to share a personal statement of belief that they used as a guiding influence in their lives.
Ward Wheelock wrote the preface to the 1952 collection and stated that the reasons for the project “were obvious . . . the uncertainty of the economic future, the shadow of war, the atom bomb, army service for one’s self or loved ones, the frustration of young people facing the future.” It was emphasized that this was not to be a platform for attacking others or for promulgating personal agendas, but rather an effort to inspire, lift, and unify a country staggering from the change in the world order.
In the years that have come and gone, others have picked up the This I Believe concept and continued to carry it forward. I would encourage each of us to consider what we believe and how that helps us make the world a better place for all.
I believe in the power of a smile. Not because I am a dentist, but because of the incredible influence that smiling, genuinely smiling at others can have. A sincere smile is like sunshine piercing darkness. It can lift and brighten someone who may be burdened with the grief and sorrow that can accompany any number of circumstances in life. A smile brings comfort and warmth to an aching heart, ushering in friendship and dismissing loneliness.
The perfect smile is not necessarily beautifully aligned and gleaming white. It is inviting, caring, and comforting. The perfect smile says, “I love you”, “I’m glad you’re here”, “You’re my friend”, “I care about you”, and so much more. And one of the best things about any smile is that it costs nothing.
So try smiling. At everyone. Observe how people respond. They will probably think that you are up to something. And you are. Kindness, patience, acceptance, tolerance, and so many other virtues will be manifest as we fill the world with people smiling at one another :^)