This year, on October 2nd 2009, we celebrate World Smile Day. As ever, the theme for the day is “Do an act of kindness. Help one person smile.” And, as always, the image that leads the way on this day is the smiley face. Though its image has been unscrupulously misused over the years- most notably by gurning ravers in the latter half of the 1980s and most recently by ultra violent comic book turned hit movie Watchmen, the smiley face was born through honest and innocent intentions. It was Harvey Ball, a commercial artist from Worcester, Massachusetts who created the smiley face in 1963. That image went on to become the most recognizable symbol of good will and good cheer on the planet.
As the years passed, Harvey Ball became concerned about the over-commercialization of his symbol, and how its original meaning and intent had become lost in the constant repetition of the marketplace. Out of that concern came his idea for World Smile Day. His dream was that the world could devote just one day each year to smiles and kind acts throughout that world. The smiley face knows no politics, no geography and no religion. Harvey’s idea was that for at least one day each year, neither should we. He declared that the first Friday in October each year would henceforth be World Smile Day.
As it has steadily grown in scale and the amount of people observing its message of basic decency has grown over the years, World Smile Day has been responsible for some incredible events – ranging from the ridiculously random to the touching and heartfelt. Just looking back over this decade alone reveals some amazing acts of lunacy and kindness:
- Back in 2000, the world’s largest smiley face jigsaw was created- it still holds its place in the Guinness Book of Records!
- In April 2001, Harvey passed away just shy of his 80th birthday. However, in October of that year Worchester’s citizens converged on City Hall Plaza to observe World Smile Day and decorate the plaza with smiley faces under the direction of Sidewalk Sam, a street artist well known throughout North-eastern US.
- In 2002, Americans gathered once again to observe World Smile Day, donning yellow and black ponchos to form a huge human smiling face.
- In 2004, the Harvey Ball World Smile Foundation, created in 2002 to honour Harvey Ball’s name and legacy, combined fun and philanthropy and sponsored a “Where’s Smiley?” contest. The Foundation awarded a $10,000.00 grant to the contest winner; a non-profit organization, Poetry Oasis, Inc.
- In 2006, people had their “Eyes on the Pies” in a mass pie-eating contest for charity! The teams gathered at Worcester City Hall Plaza on World Smile Day and competed for the chance to direct charitable gifts from the Harvey Ball World Smile Foundation to a charity, non-profit organization or school of their choice.
- Last year, in 2008, the Harvey Ball World Smile Foundation teamed up with Eleni’s Bakery in Manhattan to send packages of smiley cookies to US soldiers serving overseas.
Hopefully this little list will have done enough to inspire YOU to get involved this year. There’s still plenty of time to plan your act of random kindness so remember to note down the Terry’s postal address at the bottom of the page- I accept cheques, bonds, shares and pastries of all kinds! If it is you who needs a smile put on your face, why not use the links to take a look at the fantastic offers on anything from children’s bedding, bedside table lamps to bed sets elsewhere on the website?