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Smile Memory Lane: Joy Day 2020

On Monday, November 9, we celebrated Joy Day, marking the 9th year anniversary since the first “Happiness is” post. It would take several months for those “Happiness is” posts to grow into a movement called The Smile Project and several years more for that movement to become a certified nonprofit. Yet we celebrate November 9 as our birthday… as our Joy Day.


I spent months thinking about how we should celebrate this year. Or perhaps, more fairly, I spent months thinking about how I should think about how we would celebrate this year, until finally I sat cross legged on a picnic bench talking in circles about what The Smile Project means to me. Talking about how November 9, 2011 changed my life forever in a simultaneously simple and profound way.

Ultimately, I decided to film 9 short videos about our 9 biggest moments as an organization. Those are all shared on our Facebook and Instagram page and I encourage you to view them if you haven’t already. I’ll summarize here:


  1. The day of the first “Happiness is” post on November 9, 2011

  2. The day we launched a website and called it The Smile Project on June 4, 2012

  3. The first time we created inspirational merchandise and sold it to raise money for other local nonprofits 

  4. The second time I attended a leadership conference to speak about The Smile Project and was asked by a high school student how they could be involved, resulting in the formation of the SPARK Club program

  5. Receiving our first grant and becoming an official, certified nonprofit organization

  6. Spending 2 months driving around the United States on the #SmileProjectRoadTrip

  7. Publishing an interactive “Bubble Site” where people can search every “Happiness is” by date, day number, topic, or keyword

  8. Creating and launching an ambassador program for folks to get involved with The Smile Project outside of formal school settings


For the 9th moment and final video, I read my Happiness is for day 3289. (You can read the full post on the Bubble Site by typing 3289 in the search bar.)


It’s really easy for me to get lost in the numbers. Each day, I post my Happiness is on my personal Facebook, the nonprofit Facebook page, the Ambassador Facebook group, and the Instagram page. I also add it to the digital database and write it in my notebook. This whole process takes about 5 – 10 minutes—depending on how long the post is. It’s as routine in my day now as is brushing my teeth in the morning or washing my hands before dinner.


And because it’s so routine, it’s easy to get lost in how big of a number 3,289 is. Nine full years. I am 26-years-old. More than a third of my life is recorded in daily joys. 


If you’d have told me at age 17 that at age 26, I’d have a database of over 3,000 (mostly) unique things that I was grateful for, it would have seemed impossible. Now, flipping through the notebooks or searching something in the database, vividly brings me back to moments of joy. 


I was showing someone the Bubble Site a few days ago. I clicked on one of the “Happiness is” and looked at the year posted. My first thought was, that can’t be right. I was only 19. I was only 19. 


Every moment of my adult life has been punctuated by joy. Everything I’ve experienced in the last 3rd of my life—even the heartache—has walked hand-in-hand with a snippet of Happiness. It’s hard to truly articulate what this does to a psyche. But I know it has healed mine. 


How beautiful to have created the most consistent companion. How simple an idea to change a life. 


Thank you for 9 incredible years. Grateful is not a big enough word.




©2020 THE SMILE PROJECT