Oregon Student Essays 2023 - Keina Ga

Time of Lost Smiles

Written by Keina Ga

Teacher: Jennifer Hellman, 8th Grade
ACCESS Academy Alternative Program

Drawing of young person wearing mask and eyes are indicating a smile. 

In the efforts to manage Covid, we masked up and hid a lot of our faces. As we avoided Covid, we avoided each other. Where did the smiles go? Back then, school was fun. We received unconditional smiles from friends, as well as the occasional grins from strangers in the hallway. Now, people have to hide it. No more bright toothy beams. Because of Covid, school became gloomy. Smiles were lost.

A smile is a chain reaction. Like how Covid infects people, passing from host to ​host, a smile infects people with happiness, passing from person to person. Anyone who receives it, is bound to give back. So much of our joy derived from day-to-day smiles. Without them, I became heavy from drudgery and lost the bounce in my step. 

One day, I felt my friend smile. I was heartened. But how could I understand that she was smiling if her face was covered up by her mask? Later in the day, I somehow sensed another smile. It made me realize that even as Covid changed our lives, happiness could never really be hidden. Even if we were unable to smile with our mouths, we still had our eyes. We can all learn to smile better with our eyes, passing on kindness and still feel connected to each other. Covid, recalled differently, as the time of seeking eyes.

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