Encourage your students to make somebody smile today with this secondary SEAL assembly

This week’s assembly explores the power of the smile and the act of kindness. It challenges listeners to smile more and to carry out at least one act of kindness on this day. It is linked to World Smile Day on 2 October 2009. It also makes reference to the significance of smiling in Buddhism.

Resources

  • One leader and either 12 readers or 2/3/4 speaking more than once
  • The website http://www.worldsmileday.com/ has information about the origins of World Smile Day and suitable logos etc.
  • There are many images of the laughing Buddha and the Dalai Lama smiling on Google image

Engagement

Reader 1: Today someone in front of me dropped their pen. I picked it up for her – and no, I wasn’t trying to chat her up.

Reader 2: Someone in my class was struggling with his work – no wonder, it is physics after all. I’m good at physics, so I helped him.

Reader 3: We were in music today and there’s this girl in my class who was singing. Well, some might call it singing – it was more like the wail of some zombie creature from beyond the grave. But I smiled sweetly and told her that she had done well. You’d have thought I’d just given her a million pounds.

Reader 4: One of the smaller kids in school was having a bit of trouble getting along the corridor today. I’m pretty big and solid – so I kind of sheltered him along the corridor ‘til he got to his class. I think he was pretty relieved.

Reader 5: I said thanks to my teacher today. It was a pretty cool lesson – no really, it was. He just smiled. I’ve never seen him smile like that before.

Reader 6: There was an old lady in the supermarket yesterday who couldn’t reach the tin she wanted off the shelf, and she was looking around obviously feeling a bit helpless. So I got the tin down for her and put it in her basket.

Reader 7: I smiled at someone today.

Reader 8: Today, I found that someone had scribbled some nasty comments about a teacher on a piece of paper and put it on her desk. I snatched it off the desk and scrunched it up and chucked it in the bin.

Reader 9: I helped my little brother with his homework.

Reader 10: I got myself up and ready on time for school for a change. You wouldn’t believe how happy my mum seemed about it.

Reader 11: I told someone today that I liked his shoes.

Reader 12: I gave someone one of my sweets today.

Reflection

Leader: Sometimes, when we think of kindness, we think of the great acts of self-sacrifice that everyone knows about. We think of heroic figures, and well-known saintly people. Strangely enough we don’t often think of ourselves and the ordinary things we can do to make the world a happier place.

It would be easy in today’s world to imagine that all that ever happens is the bad stuff – wars, famines, murders, violence, hatred and so on. Newspapers and TV programmes seem to focus on it rather a lot, and your average TV soap isn’t exactly filled with sweetness and light – they prefer, it seems, to focus on the dark side of human nature. You’ll often hear people expressing their views about how things in the world are getting worse – about how people seem to be more selfish, uncaring and unhelpful. Whether that’s true or not is, of course, a matter of opinion.

So today, let’s focus on the better side of human nature. Friday 2nd October is World Smile Day. In 1963, an artist called Harvey Ball created the now famous smiley face image [show image now]. He said that creating it took him ten minutes and it had been created to help boost workers’ morale in an insurance company. By 1971, the image was everywhere and it is reckoned that around fifty million smiley badges were made and sold (1). As time wore on, Harvey became concerned that the image was being exploited for financial gain, and that its original purpose – of cheering people up – had been forgotten. So he started up the World Smile Day. Harvey’s idea was that on one day each year we should forget about the differences which can arise through our different views of politics and religion and nationality.

Not only that, but on one day each year we should carry out acts of kindness and, in his own words, ’help one person smile’.

The readers who spoke at the start of this assembly each carried out an act of kindness – and we can easily imagine the people who were on the receiving end of this act of kindness smiling – and not in an empty meaningless way, but really smiling. Psychologists tell us that the physical act of smiling – even turning the corners of your mouth upwards instead of downwards – can make us feel better. It can lower blood pressure, reduce stress and generally make you feel very positive about the world (2). Not only that of course – it will also make people feel more positive about you as well as themselves. So, all in all, smiling seems to be a very worthwhile activity!

In the Buddhist faith, the image of a laughing Buddha is a very popular one. The familiar smiling Buddha is actually a character called Pu-tai – a Zen Buddhist monk who lived around a thousand years ago (3). He is seen as a cheerful figure and a symbol of happiness and contentment. The Dalai Lama is well-known for his infectious laughing and most photographs of him are shown with him having a beaming smile. Both of these figures are known for their acts of kindness towards others. Perhaps the smiles are caused by the acts of kindness?

Response

Leader: What acts of kindness could you carry out today? [Leader could take some ideas from the assembly here and/or suggest further acts of kindness relevant to the school community.] I’m going to challenge you to carry out one completely random act of kindness today. Everyone should be able to do this because you need do nothing more than simply give someone a smile. Let’s make our school an especially happy place today – do something kind for another person, or simply smile at them or accept their smile graciously. It’ll make you feel better and it’ll make them feel better and perhaps, if only in a very small way, it will make the world a better place.

You can make this short reading a prayer if you like:

Let me act with kindness today for no reason at allLet me randomly do good thingsLet me do this with a smileLet the world be filled with joy and compassion for all beingsAnd before this day is over

Let me have helped at least one person smile

[Amen]

(1) http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/article470859.ece
(2) http://positivepsychologynews.com/news/emiliya-zhivotovskaya/200809271036
(3) http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1O108-Putai.html
 

This e-bulletin issue was first published in September 2009

About the author: Joe Walker is Head of RE & Psychology at Liberton High School in Edinburgh. As well as being a well-known author he was winner of Secondary Teacher of the Year at the Scottish Education awards 2005.

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