Save a Smile for a Rainy Day

woman-with-flowers-in-hairBy: Jennifer Herman

Lots of people talk about things they are "saving for a rainy day." Have you ever thought about saving smiles? For someone with chronic illness, the day doesn't have to be rainy or gloomy to be gray. Sometimes the reasons to be sad or cranky pile up, reaching to the ceiling. For this very reason, I created the Smile File.

What is a smile file? It is something you create to hold things that make you smile or laugh. Then, on the days you are fighting depression, pain, worry, or anything else that brings you down, you go to your smile file for some smile therapy. (There may be some laughter involved as well.)

What exactly does a smile file look like? There are lots of options! For example, my smile file is an expandable file folder. You could make a smile file from a box or other container, or a single manila file folder. Perhaps you may start with a single folder and eventually need to upgrade. That would be great!

Once you have chosen your "holder," you must decorate it. Yes, I know many adults feel like the days of creativity are far behind them, but you need to do this step. It is part of the therapy! Find some markers and stickers, or anything else you would like to use to decorate your folder or container. If you are really artsy, you might even decoupage a box or draw a scene on your file that makes you happy. Taking time to decorate your smile file makes it personal. My smile folder has stickers of a chocolate sundae, flowers, and books. Those are all things I like. The point is to make your file cheery. Remember, it is supposed to help you on bad days!

After you have decorated your file, you may want to label it inside. Since mine is an expandable file, I have sections for different types of things that make me smile. Here are some suggestions:

  • funny stories
  • jokes
  • funny pictures
  • smile pictures
  • correspondence (a note from a caring friend)
  • quotes
  • inspirational articles

A note of explanation: there is a difference between "funny pictures" and "smile pictures." A funny picture is one that makes you laugh; a smile picture brings a smile to your face but may not make you actually laugh. We need both kinds! If you don’t divide your smile file, all of these things would be in one spot together, which is fine.

If you are using a container, you will not have to restrict your file to only paper items. Perhaps you have a rock that you found at the beach, and looking at it reminds you of that great vacation years ago. Put that in your box!  Has a child you love drawn a picture especially for you? Add that to the mix! A great resource for smile file material is Reader’s Digest magazine. There are many funny stories and jokes sprinkled throughout each issue.

You are the creator of your smile file, and you make the rules on what goes inside. Well, except for the first rule: whatever you put in your file must make you smile or laugh!

One final recommendation about the smile file: if you think it is a good idea and you would like to try it, why not share the idea with a friend? This gives another level of smiles to the project. When you know your friend has a smile file as well, you will sometimes discover things in your daily life that she might want to add to her file. You give it to her, and this particular addition has extra meaning. Not only does it make her smile, but she knows you were thinking of her.

What are you waiting for? Go start that smile file! Just in case you are thinking you don't have any material, I pass on some funny anecdotes from when I taught elementary school. Get out there and SMILE!

Funnies from the classroom (original spelling intact):

Bonus question on a history test: Who wrote Uncle Tom's Cabin?
Student answer: John Wayne

Science test essay: "I think the brain and nervous system are most like [two girls in the class] because they tell the other something as soon as they find out."

Journal topic: If I had been alive when David fought Goliath . . .
Student response: "If I had been alive when David fought Goliath, I wouldn’t be alive now, because that was a long time ago!"

In a report on Toronto, discussing tourist attractions: "One of them is the Pantagus Theator. I have been there to see the Fantom of the Oprah."

And finally,

One year my students wanted to commemorate Victory-Europe Day for World War II. One student was making a speech pretending he was a returning soldier. He said he had been gone for twenty-four years and later in his speech he mentioned meeting his new child for the first time. Afterward, another boy said to him, "If you were gone twenty-four years, your kids would be grown up. Either that, or that lady carried that baby a LONG time!"

Jennifer Herman created her first smile file for her mother.

(Photo credit:  Petr Kratochvil,

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