I’m often asked why I smile so much, in person, in interviews, and even when talking about sensitive topics, and the answer has many points I’d like to touch upon here. I spent a lot of my life looking scary, playing the role expected of me within the movement I was associated with. People would stare, cross the street, clutch their purses, walk around me great distances. Once I left my life of ignorance and hate, I set about to change that and altered the way I looked as to not scare others. I’m a big guy naturally, 6’2″ and 270lbs, so this was not an easy undertaking by any stretch of the imagination. 

I took out my piercing in my septum, I cut my hair, I dressed differently, but still, I noticed some people were a bit afraid of me (possibly because of my tattoos) and I wanted to rectify this inasmuch I could. I realized that I couldn’t remove all of my tattoos, so I had to think of something I could do to make people feel more welcomed to engage with me. I read an article in a magazine several years back called “The science of smiling,” written by a therapist who stated that smiles are almost infectious, that smiles brighten people’s days. Thus I began smiling almost all of the time and it worked…

Secondly, I smile today because I can, when in the past in the horrible movement I was in, anything but anger was looked at as weak and almost wholly foreign. At all times you had to play the part, you had to look the role, which was intimidating and ready to lash out, and since I’ve been out from that life, I feel free to express myself outwardly. To me, my smile is a revolutionary act against what I was, it is my proverbial shout of freedom from the shackles of the life I’d led. 

Finally, I smile because I have a lot to smile about in my life. I have a wife and four kids who love me, a family who love me, amazing friends of all races and walks of life who love me, I work with an incredible group of individuals fighting against extremism, and work towards, peace and unity amongst all people, G-D found me and led me on this amazing journey into Judaism and so much more. 

 

I have every reason to smile today, my life is so different, so much better and so full of love for all people. I survived a very hard life, I have made a very different life, and Baruch Hashem this life is so full of light that it’s nearly blinding. Every day is a fresh start, every day is a chance to do and be better and every day is a day we can reach out and help others, and as I write this… I am smiling!