On the night before graduation, my entire senior class jammed into our student center for an open meeting; it was a time for us to say any last words or thoughts before we left our tiny little boarding school in the middle of nowhere and entered the world. We sat in a big circle, and I stared around at the faces that I thought I knew so well. Then, a boy in my class brought us all to tears. A couple of months earlier, he had made the decision to end his life. As he was writing his suicide note at the desk in is dorm room, another boy in my class tapped on the door, poked his head in, and offered him a grin and a milkshake. The boy dropped his pen, took the milkshake, and decided to continue to live. My friend who had offered the milkshake did not know that this boy was in such a dark place that death seemed the only way out, and he did not know that he was a hero; he just felt like saying hi and offering the milkshake.
These are the moments where true heroes exist. They do not wear capes, they don’t have special powers, they don’t even know that they are heroes. We all have the potential to be this hero. Saving a life can be as simple as a smile. People who are sad are extremely skilled at appearing happy and normal; they wear a smile on the outside to push the loneliness deeper on the inside. On a college campus, we pass by so many people each day on our way to and from classes. Usually, our heads are down, or glued to our phones, or just looking straight through those around us. But why not smile? If you knew that one smile could save a life, would you do it? You never know if the person that you just brushed shoulders with is contemplating death. Just smile.
A man who jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge left a note in his apartment saying that if one person smiled at him on the walk from his apartment to the bridge that we would turn around and go home. Not one person smiled. A tourist shoved a camera in his hands and asked him to take a picture of her, but she only smiled at the lens. The man gave back the camera, walked a little further down the bridge, and jumped to his death. One smile would have saved his life.
So, as you walk across your campus, have the courage to look people in the eyes and smile. You could truly be a hero. You could save a life.