Community Papers

Make B.C. Smile is worthwhile

Kirsten Koellmel, in Grade 6 at Pitt Meadows elementary, holds up a sign along Harris Road as part of the Make B.C. Smile campaign on Thursday. - Colleen Flanagan/THE NEWS
Kirsten Koellmel, in Grade 6 at Pitt Meadows elementary, holds up a sign along Harris Road as part of the Make B.C. Smile campaign on Thursday.
— image credit: Colleen Flanagan/THE NEWS

“Honk if you love someone.”

If you saw a student on the side of the road holding that sign, would you?

More importantly, would it make you smile?

“Today is awesome,” or “Don’t be so hard on yourself” – would those messages, on a placard, brighten your day, just a little bit, for a little while?

Those in the leadership class at Thomas Haney secondary think so and have embarked on the Make B.C. Smile campaign.

Drivers may have noticed students at Pitt Meadows elementary out displaying their own brands of positive messages along Harris Road on Thursday afternoon, as they have joined the effort.

“I really do think it works. Even tiny positive messages can brighten my day,” said Courtney Connor, a Grade 10 student at Samuel Robertson Technical.

She is part of the District Student Advisory Council (DSAC) that has also taken up Make B.C. Smile.

“The more we get out there, the better community we can build,” said Connor. “We want to make B.C. feel smaller – more like a community.”

The organizers have borrowed generously from a student initiative from Washington called “Make D.C. Smile.”

Massoud Adibpour first created the signs and eventually a Youtube video titled, “Honk If You Love Someone. ”

He’s gained some measure of celebrity. The Washington Post called him the “Prince of Positivity,” and “a Bobby McFerrin song come to life.”

Local students wanted to tap into that, and so they have brought Adibpour to Maple Ridge, to be the main speaker for the annual DSAC leadership conference today at the Greg Moore Youth Centre. He’ll tell 150 elementary students, future leaders in local schools, about what he started, and how significant it has become.

Miranda Tymoschuk, a DSAC leader, has been communicating with him online, and he “Skyped” the THSS leadership class. So, she said, meeting Adibpour at Vancouver International Airport was like welcoming an old friend.

The local students made it a big, splashy, positive event. They created a ball pit at YVR, and on each ball were written messages like “What’s your dream?” or “If you had lots of money, what would you spend it on.”

The idea was to get two people into the ball pit, and have them ask each other a random question.

“Arrive strangers, depart friends,” was their pitch line.

Tymoschuck said people were quite interested in their ball pit, and about 15 of them got in.

“Often people don’t even say “hi” to each other in an airport – they’re all busy,” she said.

This week, they’ve taken Adibpour along for some random acts of kindness, and to talk to kids at local schools.

“It’s been fun sharing our ideas with him, and hearing his ideas from D.C.,” said Tymoschuk.

On Tuesday, they visited patients and Ridge Meadows Hospital, and brought them flowers.

“How much does this cost?” was a common query from patients.

They brought along their chalkboard with the heading “What makes you smile,” and let patients write down their thoughts: “Sexy rich man,” and “People and animals,” or “Flowers.”

They also went to a coffee place and bought gift cards, to be used to randomly buy customers drinks.

The teens are convinced that the effort of Make B.C. Smile is worthwhile.

“I think it really makes a difference,” said Tymoschuk.

For the students at Thomas Haney, she has no doubt it has been an enlightening exercise.

“It gives us such a positive way to connect with our community.”

Make B.C. Smile also sends a subtler message to commuters about not being disconnected from the people around them.

“People need this in their lives,” asserts Tymoschuk. “People go on with their lives, and ignore the people they pass every day.”

There is some science to back her up. The Washington Post interviewed a psychologist about Adibpour’s Washington signs, and found he had inadvertently engineered a “positive intervention.”

If people choose to react positively to this intervention – a voluntary decision – their mind-set can became more positive throughout their day.

“And even though the group’s signs provide only a brief moment of cheer, people shouldn’t write off the good effects,” said the Post, “… scowl at Adibpour and his sign-toting friends and you’ll have to put up with the rest of your miserable day. “

Tymoschuk has heard from schools in Hope and Kelowna that want to be part of Make B.C. Smile.

“We’re hoping that as more schools that get involved, it’ll spread across the province.”

 

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