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Column: ‘You can free me all in the way that you smile’

I spent many of my formative years in front of stereo speakers, watching records spin on a turntable. One of my favorite records — Neil Young’s “After the Gold Rush” — bounced off the walls of my bedroom frequently.

I could babble on for days about my admiration for Young, but for now, there’s a simple line in the song “Tell Me Why” that I’d like highlight.

“I am lonely, but you can free me all in the way that you smile,” Young sings in a shaky tenor on the album’s opening track.

The power of an honest smile is immeasurable. I’ve had crummy days turned around because a random stranger smiled at me as we crossed paths on the sidewalk.

Last week, I was introduced to a 9-month-old baby who was full of smiles. It was contagious. He didn’t have to speak to communicate. A smile is universal, and this baby’s smiles were reciprocated tenfold.

I visit Newton schools every week for the Newton Daily News Kids Talk. I always leave the schools in a good mood because the students, especially the younger kids, are usually smiling and bubbling with excitement.

It’s not said enough that adults can learn just as much from children as children can from adults. Elders would be wise to listen to young ones more often. Teaching kids total subordination squanders progress. Young minds have fantastic ideas and the purest smiles.

Many mornings, as I head out of my apartment building to work, there’s a kind woman waiting for her transportation at the bottom of the stairs. She always smiles when she says “Hi.” What a great way to kick off a day.

You can fall in love with a smile. I don’t indulge in sharing the details of my intimate life, but I can confirm that it is possible to fall in love with a smile.

Of course not everyone can be happy all the time, and I don’t expect everyone to smile nonstop. Such is life. Bad things happen. Life’s unrelenting punches can shake even the most optimistic souls. That’s exactly why a well-timed smile can make a world of difference.

To be clear, I’m not demanding smiles. People should be free to do whatever they want with their facial expressions. However, I’m definitely an advocate for positive energy. I think Young shares an affinity for positivity. It shines in much of his work.

No one communicates universal truths through song lyrics like Young. Twenty years after “After the Gold Rush,” Young released a song called “Love and Only Love.” The refrain drives home a message that will always stick with me.

“Love and only love will endure

Hate is everything you think it is

Love and only love will break it down”

Then, in classic Young fashion, he delves into a marathon guitar solo, which makes me smile.

Contact Justin Jagler

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