We caught up with Sarah Todd Stansbury–Dupont Circle’s Smile Girl–on Sunday evening in Dupont Circle. We weren’t sure if we would find her because hundreds of Spanish soccer fans were still spontaneously celebrating their team’s World Cup victory in, and around, the fountain.
But she was there on the grass with her “Smile” sign in her lap, talking to one of the friends she has made during her daily visits to Dupont Circle. We first learned about Stansbury after seeing her Facebook Page and watching the video at the local blog, Cool People Doing Cool Things, which is done by Robert Thomason, a freelance journalist and former Washington Post reporter.
What motivates this high school student to spend two hours each day of her summer vacation? Stansbury can tell you herself.
Borderstan: How long have you lived in the Dupont Circle area?
Stansbury: I don’t actually live in D.C.! I live in Phoenix, Arizona. I live with my dad there, and every summer I visit my mom here in DC. Next year I’ll be a junior in high school. I go to an all girl’s school in Phoenix.
Borderstan: When did you start with your “Smile” sign? How many days per week are you there?
Stansbury: I started it last year, summer of 2009, I was people watching in Dupont Circle and there were two guys behind me arguing. I had written “Smile” on a notebook earlier that summer and I held it up to them. I started doing it after that. I try to be there from 5 to 7:30 pm every day–but some days I don’t make it because I have plans or something–at least five days out of the week.
“The question people always ask me is if this is a social experiment or if it’s a project or something. It is not at all, it is just for fun, and for everybody. We should smile for every day, for everything we have and everything we don’t. Keep smiling!”
Borderstan: How often do people say “hello” or “thank you?”
Stansbury: I sit in the very center of the circle. And that’s the only place I hold up my sign. From the two and a half-ish hours I sit there, per day, I’d say about five to eight people say “hi” or “thank-you”, but more often than hellos or thank-yous people ask me why I’m sitting there with a sign that says “Smile”.
Borderstan: Do you ever get negative feedback from people?
Stansbury: I don’t really get negative feed back. Sometimes people will see me but won’t smile. But that’s as negative as it gets.
Borderstan: By going out and doing something designed to bring happiness to people, I have to ask, “Have you thought about what you are going to do after high school?
Stansbury: After high school I want to go to college, as to where I’m not sure. I’d love to go to American University, or maybe somewhere in the Washington State area–I love rain. As of right now, I want to major in psychology and minor in theater in college. But I’m 16. It’ll probably change.
Borderstan: Anything you’d like to add?
Stansbury: The question people always ask me is if this is a social experiment or if it’s a project or something. It is not at all, it is just for fun, and for everybody. We should smile for every day, for everything we have and everything we don’t. Keep smiling!