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It starts with a smile

I’m not sure if you know that May 31st was National Smile Day. I know, doesn’t seem like everything has a day, some we recognize, and some we don’t. Anyway, I helped create and launch Orange County Think Differently It Starts with a Smile Day. I was the keynote speaker, I was the only speaker. The point of the day was to encourage others to smile instead of staring at the disabled, to strike up a conversation, and it starts with a smile.

Photo: my aunt in a red hat with black veil next to a photo of me with a witches nose.  My aunt is laughing hysterically in the photo and I have a super wide exaggerated smile using a snapchat filter.
Did that make you smile?

what a smile means

My speech focused on what a smile means to me. For me a smile warms my heart. I can't smile on command so for something to make me smile it means it touched me. It made me feel good, like seeing an old friend. The following is an excerpt from my speech.

When I was younger people would stare at me. They were curious and didn’t know how to approach me or start a conversation. I started decorating my wheelchair as a way to encourage people to notice me in a positive way. This simple act opened a means of communication between me and those that were curious. I did this to encourage others to see me. Now it is your turn to see those that are different from you. It starts with a smile.

Photo: Think differently crew that put the event together hold a banner that says Think Differently
Think Differently Crew

I was Shy

I was very shy when I was young. I know hard to believe. Mom noticed way before I did that people would stare at us. We had lots of discussions about how to handle that in a positive way. At first, when I would catch someone staring I would loudly ask if there was something on my face. Most of the time this was met with horrified stares but other times it was met with a quick no. To which I would then say, thank goodness because mom usually leaves food on my face. This would begin a very short but positive encounter. I saw that it was the positivity that got the interaction started.

Photo: me at the age of three wearing my Winnie the Poo denim dress.  I am smiling with food on my face!
Notice the food still on my face...and in my mouth.

Pineapples to smile at

Mom then began to decorate my chair. Mom went all out, with sparkly garland, smiley face wheel covers, lights, and even Christmas bells. Which annoyed at least one of my Aunts. This was always an icebreaker, sort of like how we comment on people's shoes or clothing. Positivity yields positivity. It reminds me of the time Nolan changed his suit midway through my other cousin's wedding. He made everybody smile when he proudly wore his pineapple suit. Think about it how does it make you feel to smile?

Photo: Nolan wearing a aqua blue skinny suit and tie with bright yellow pineapples all over the suit.
Nolan makes everyone smile!

It Starts with a Smile

Back to the, It starts with a smile day. The day was filled with expectations and high hopes of changing the way people interact. Orange County has officially declared the day, Think Differently, It Starts with a Smile Day. I think that is pretty cool. I think for those of us that were there it was a great beginning of something big to come. We had rock painting, smiley stickers, stamps, coloring pages, and a what a smile means to Me, affirmation board. Not to mention books about how to talk to children about disabilities and Pledge station. The day was kicked off at a local high school and was well received. The hope is for next year to create a county-wide competition of sorts with the winning school getting to pie the County Executive.

Text: My smile sees your smile and my smiles are much needed Hugs!

The Happy Bus

I can’t forget to mention the Happy Health Bus. Currently, it is still allocated for COVID health stuff but at the end of June, it is free to be a general health and mobile wellness bus. The bus is wheelchair accessible. They have had a bus for a year and never used the lift. They tested but never had a rider. You guessed it I got to be the first rider!

Photo: the Orange County Department of Health happy health bus.  The RV is aqua blue with a garden of flowers along the bottom edge.  It Says Health Grows Here.  It is a Happy Bus!
The Happy Health Bus

Please go up!

It was not without its hiccups. The lift went down easy as pie, I rolled on, safety first, chair off, seat belt secured, and nothing. This had everyone in a panic after all it was a photo op and I was still on the ground. On again, off again Finnegan. Thanks to the eagle eye of mom, she noticed I was just a hair too far forward and was pushing on the ramp. We tried again, inching me backward. I had flashbacks of this very same thing that prevented me from traveling with my peers to Google. Fingers crossed and the button was pushed and I rose. I was so excited, it worked. Everyone was so relieved that we did it again. I think what it showed all of us was that just because something is equipped to do a job, you should practice first with a willing participant. I was happy to do my part to make health more accessible to all who may need it. I learned about not touching the ramp which I think will be helpful in the future if ever I find myself on another bus.

Photo: me and dad and the Orange County Department of Health Director on the ramp to the Happy Bus.
After we finally got it to work.

Take the Pledge

All in all, it was a great day. Will you take the pledge with me to try and start a conversation with a simple smile?

I pledge to think differently and to treat others with respect and dignity.

I pledge to be mindful of how my actions impact the lives of people and to remember that the greatest act of all is a simple smile.

Photo: me at 6 months old with a smile on my face!

Thank you for reading until the end!

This is the view from my wheelchair, where miracles can make a difference. Always Strive for the Impossible. Come back next week to see what makes me giggle even though it shouldn't and hear more about my experiences and The View From My Wheelchair.

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Jun 30, 2023

Good Morning, you have a beautiful smile. Keep smiling.

Allison Murphy
Allison Murphy
Jun 30, 2023
Replying to

Thank you😁

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