A short story 
By Tom Gnagey
© 2011  
1,775 words

The young man pulled his horse to a stop at the weather worn, wooden, sign beside the dirt road. Nuggets, Colorado. pop. 87. Ahead he could see the dozen or so, mostly unpainted, two story, clapboard buildings that lined both sides of the ever dusty Main Street. The raised, plank, walkways out front, protected from the relentless winter snows by well supported, gently sloping, roofs, gave the appearance of mirror image porches running the length of the block. It provided a short stretch of authentic Americana as well as mixed memories of the summer Nate and his grandfather had spent there together eleven years before. During the hundred and fifty plus years since the gold rush, the town hadn’t really changed in any significant ways. Even the names and faces of its subsequent generations bore unmistakable similarities to those that had been there before.  
The horse, a rental from a stable in Rocky Point, ten or so miles to the east, handled the high Colorado altitude much better than Nate, a southern California resident for most of his 23 years. He wiped the sweat from his dust encrusted face, reset his hat, and gently urged his four legged transportation on into town. The mid-July heat had built a mighty thirst in both of them.
Nate was a recent UCLA graduate and a budding writer following in the noteworthy footsteps of his grandfather, Harry. The summer he turned twelve he and his grandfather had set out together on a grand adventure – prospecting for gold and living off the land in a valley, which sat a mile or so just south of Nuggets. With saw and axe they built a lean-to, spread sleeping bags on thick beds of dried grass, and laid up a no-mortar, stone, fireplace to warm the cold nights and cook on. There was a swiftly moving, trout-filled stream that passed in an easy bend no more than fifty feet away. It was the coldest natural water source Nate could have imagined but that didn’t keep the two of them from their early morning dip most days.
Harry taught Nate to use a rifle and to set box traps for small game. There were berries and tubers and fruit from trees disfigured by the severe winters. They had wonderful conversations while they dipped their lines waiting for nibbles from the wily, colorful, fish that made the stream their home. It had all the makings of the summer every twelve year old boy dreams of – and for the most part, it had been just that.  
On Wednesday and Saturday afternoons they went into town and had a home cooked meal at the café slash bar slash gambling hall. They would remain well into the night. As Nate recalled, the community was clearly under populated with women, not a big deal at twelve but of somewhat more importance at 23. He recalled no more than six females out of the entire population back then. There were only a few children and they kept their distance, most likely at the direction of their parents.
Harry was doing research for a historical novel to be set in the area a century before. Under the tutelage of his grandfather, Nate was working on his first, serious, attempt at completing a publishable story aimed at his age mates – Wilderness Summer. The account they circulated in town was that of a grandfather and his grandson spending the summer together, camping, living off the land, and trying their hands at prospecting for gold. No one had reason to suppose otherwise since they clearly were involved in all of those things. They bought picks and chisels and shovels and other essential hand mining paraphernalia at the hardware store. In addition to their two horses, they purchased a mule outfitted with pack gear. Nate named it Mule – and laughed himself silly whenever he referred to it by name. They had, in fact, more success finding the precious metal than they had ever anticipated.  
They remained mum to the residents about the writing side of their stay. Harry thought they would obtain a more genuine glimpse into the residents’ lives that way. He was looking for authentic local idioms, vocabulary variations, and grammatical patterns. He wanted to learn about the give and take, and the emotional interaction of people in such an isolated community. He hoped to hear stories and history about the area that could add authenticity to his piece.
Visitation by outsiders was not encouraged but as long as they demonstrated no disruptive ways, paid their tabs, and left a few bucks a week at the poker table, they would be tolerated – not really befriended. Most of the men were middle aged and beyond. They had lived in Nuggets all their lives and had good enough fortune to find a steady smattering of gold. It was never enough to draw crowds or provide riches but they supported themselves and most were able to put enough away for a comfortable retirement. It was the prospect of that elusive big strike that fed their desire to stay, and as long as gold continued to appear, their dreams remained alive.  
They were not a trusting lot. Greedy people aren’t. Any one of them would have taken whatever steps were necessary to jump a suddenly productive claim. Fortunately for the stability of the community, no such thing ever seemed to happen. Well, not until Harry and Nate arrived!
Nate recalled the afternoon at the café when he had spilled the beans about their find. Harry had excused himself to run across the street to the hardware/grocery/dry goods store. Nate let the cat out of the bag. 
“So, how you and your Grampa doin’ out there at Silver Creek?” the waitress asked, making small talk as she slid into a chair across the table from the boy. Nate had discerned that Blaze was the only relatively friendly person in town. In some ways she reminded him of his mother.
“Doing great. I love it out there. Could stay forever. Can I tell you a secret?”
“We found a cave with a huge vein of gold running though it – a foot top to bottom and twelve feet long. No telling how deep it runs back into the rock. We’re going to be rich! Grampa went over to Rocky Point and registered the claim last Monday. I never dreamed that prospecting was going to be this easy.”
“Well, good luck with that,” Blaze said raising her eyebrows.  
She pushed back from the table.
“I’ll go check on your food.”
Boasting about a claim was not the thing to do in Nuggets, Colorado, pop. 87. Suddenly the men of the community began showing more of an interest in them. No reference to the reported strike was ever made. Traffic near their campsite picked up, however, and it was not welcome as far as Nate was concerned even though he understood it was important for his grandfather to find ways of getting close to the men in order to carry out his research. 
Six weeks into their stay, Harry received a severe beating by three of the townsmen as they tried to force him to divulge the location of the cave. The men left him for dead. Nate had witnessed the incident from behind the lean-to and had the good sense not to get involved. It was late evening and in the darkness he couldn’t identify the assailants who wore bandanas across their faces as if out of a scene from the old west. After the attackers left, grief stricken and terrified young Nate tended to his unconscious grandfather as best he could. He then tied the old man across the saddle of one of the horses and with the mule in tow, set out through the night for Rocky Point where medical help was available. The old man lived but would never fully recover.
That was then.
Nate tied his horse to the hitching rail beside the watering trough in front of the café and entered. He wasn’t recognized even though the assortment of occupants had not really changed since before. Those years from 12 to 23 make a big difference in a young man’s appearance. He ordered drink and food. Blaze was still waiting tables. He inquired about lodging. Following her suggestion he acquired a room upstairs above the hardware store. It was a weekly let, understood to be for an indefinite length of time. He was studied from afar by the residents – partly the oddity of having an outsider in their midst and partly the generally suspicious nature of the locals. He asked if anybody there ever played poker. He was invited to sit in at the nightly game.
After a few days he let slip that it had been he and his grandfather who had visited during that summer years earlier. The men took notice. Nate took notice of the men taking notice. The cave had clearly never been found. To assure that Nate stayed long enough so they could nurse information out of him, they let the youngster win big at the table and plied him with free beer to loosen his tongue. (Clearly, they were unaware of the inoculation against such a possibility provided by a four year college education grounded in fraternity life.)
Nate was befriended by a nine year old boy who was an obvious plant to further mine the man for information. Sometimes such strategies don’t go as planned. At the end of Nate’s sixth week in Nuggets, the boy came to Nate and informed him he had overheard men talking about stealing back his poker winnings and beating him until he gave up the location of the cave. Nate gathered his things and waited until just past midnight.  
So it was that six weeks to the day from when he had arrived in Nuggets, the grandson again left the area in the wee hours of the morning heading on horseback to Rocky Point. This time, however, something was different. He wore a smile and occasionally found himself chuckling out loud.
Several things pleased Nate about his brief stay in Nuggets. Since, over the course of those weeks, they had been willing to risk their entire life’s savings in pursuit of the cave’s supposed location, the residents plainly had no hint that there had never really been a cave sporting a huge vein of gold. It had been a ruse to see what kinds of behavior it might stir up among them. Also, he could now finish his grandfather’s novel, reflecting the fuller human side of the story in a way that would make the old writer proud. And, of course, there were those saddle bags filled with something over $250,000 in poker winnings. A secure and relatively comfortable old age would be assured for his grandfather. ​


Imaginary Security
By Garrison Flint (Tom Gnagey)
© 2006
1,500 words

"Ben, you're seven years old now and your father and I think it's time that you give up your make believe little brother, Johnny," his mother said kindly as she gently brushed back his hair and tucked him in for the night. "Sometimes, lately, it seems as though you don't even realize that he's just part of your imagination. If you can't turn him off by yourself we may begin sending you to a counselor."
Ben was used to the expressions of disbelief on the part of his parents so just smiled up at her and nodded, turning his cheek to receive her gentle touch and wonderful bedtime kiss. He placed his finger over the still moist spot and once she was out the door he reached his hand over and touched Johnny's cheek, in that way sharing the kiss with him as he lay there in the bed beside him. As a little boy Ben used to ask that his mother kiss Johnny as well, but she had stopped acquiescing to that request some years before.
"So, Johnny, are you as excited as I am about the big meeting on Monday?"
"I can hardly wait. It's a little scary though."
"I know. You've never moved before. It'll be okay, I promise you."
"I'll miss this place, though, after being here so many years."
"I understand about that. We better get to sleep. Lots of things to do in the next couple of days. They joined hands and were soon asleep
* * * * *
Ben and his father had been planning an outing for fishing and swimming at the creek. The day had finally arrived. They stowed the gear in the trunk, the cooler and lunch in the back seat, and were on their way by six. Ben had selected the early hour.
While his father was distracted by the process of backing the car out the driveway, Ben motioned to Johnny – riding in the back seat – to fasten his seat belt.
"Sometimes I wonder about that kid," Ben mumbled to himself, rolling his eyes.
Johnny was as lackadaisical about life as Ben was organized. They both did well in school and their teachers had noted what wonderfully creative imaginations each had. Johnny was better at baseball but Ben was the fastest runner in his class. Johnny was more into electronic games while Ben loved to read. They both liked to swim. Ben couldn't remember a single time in their six years together that an unkind word had passed between them. Ben loved and protected his little brother. Johnny loved and looked up to his big brother.  
With Ben being slightly small for his age and Johnny being a bit large for his, they were often mistaken for twins – a situation that delighted them both. The single sad facet of the boys' lives was the refusal of their parents to recognize Johnny's existence.
In the interest of a good time, Ben didn't mention Johnny during that day at the creek with his father. Johnny knew he wouldn't be allowed a fishing pole of his own but sat close to his brother and helped hold that one. They hooked a half dozen perch by lunch time and soon had them frying in a large cast iron skillet over a small fire. Johnny urged Ben to make it larger but the father didn't take well to the suggestion.  
Clandestinely, Ben saw that Johnny received sizable portions of food and when all was said and done both felt well satisfied. After lunch the three of them played in the water, swimming, splashing, dunking – all the usual rough-house guy stuff. As loving and attentive as his father was, Ben couldn't understand how he could just continue to ignore his little brother. That would change after the big meeting. Then everything would become good for Johnny.
When they got home, Ben regaled his mother with story after story from the day's adventure. She listened attentively, smiled at all the appropriate places, and asked questions that displayed her sincere interest. After they had eaten supper, the boys went up to their room and began packing. During his six years, Johnny had accumulated lots of stuff. Ben helped him sort out what he would take and what he would leave for the kids at the big, red, brick, orphanage there in their town.
By bedtime, suitcases were packed and boxes taped shut. The parents praised the effort. Just why they would acknowledge Johnny's leaving when they had been unwilling to acknowledge his presence all those years simply baffled Ben. Ben readily accepted their wonderful hugs and kisses and was soon tucked in. The parents turned off the light and closed the door behind them.
The boys were excited and had a hard time falling asleep. The big meeting was set for ten o'clock the next morning.
* * * * *
It was a new experience for the boys. They entered a large room with seats like in a movie theater. Those sat behind a low, fence-like, wooden wall nearly three feet high with a swinging door at the center isle. In front of it were two tables. The boys were directed to sit at the one on the right with two suited men they had never met. They seemed pleasant, however. At the very front of the room, up on a low stage, a woman in a black robe sat behind a tall, massive, desk. She had glasses hanging from a chord around her neck and seemed very business like. The boys held hands under the table and swung their legs in excitement. The Lady in the robe spoke directly to them.
"Ben and John Winston. Over the past few months you have spent numerous short periods of time with Mr. and Mrs. Thomas. Having never had parents, or lived outside the orphanage before, do you have any questions for me? 
"No, Ma'am."
"No, Ma'am."
Is it your wish to be adopted by them?"
"Oh, yes, Ma'am," they said in unison, grinning at the couple sitting at the next table.
"Then I now declare the adoption final. Go to your new parents and may you have a long and wonderful life together.​


Who’s on First?
A short, short, story
© 2010 Tom Gnagey
1,111 words

“Dr. Cosgrove, I hope this isn’t awkward,” Smith began.
“Psychiatrists don’t let things become awkward. How did things go for you on your ward yesterday?” Dr. Cosgrove asked.
“Okay, I guess,” Smith answered. “A bit uncomfortable, I suppose.”
“Why uncomfortable?”
“I’m not used to living with crazy people; pardon if that offends.”
“Not at all. If anybody understands crazy it’s me. How are you feeling?”
“I hate this place, you know.”
“I know. Between you and me I’m not real fond of it myself,” Dr. Cosgrove said confidentially, leaning forward.
Smith smiled and nodded. “Do I get grounds privileges today? I think that might help.”
“Sorry. You have to be here a full week, first. Observation, you understand. Can’t be too careful with new patients. Our job is to keep everybody safe. Time will pass quickly. We keep folks busy, here.”
“I’m coming to see that. Individual therapy, group therapy, occupational therapy, art therapy, recreational therapy. When am I supposed to have time to work out my problems?”
They exchanged a smile appreciating the humor.
“Can we talk about your mother?” Dr. Cosgrove asked.
“Only if we say nice things about her. I have an exceptional mother. Raised five boys: one lawyer, one doctor, one architect, one professor, and one minister.”
“Your brothers have all been successful in their professional pursuits?”
“I guess that was a question,” Smith said, clarifying.  
“Yes. Sorry if it didn’t seem clear.”
“Yes, they have. Very successful.”
“Which one does your mother love the most?” Dr. Cosgrove asked.
“She loves us all equally.”
“Bull crap. No mother loves all her kids alike.”
“The term, ‘bull crap’ doesn’t seem very professional, Doc.”
“I never wanted to be a doctor. Mom forced me into it.”
“I thought we were here to talk about me.”
“You refuse to acknowledge your mother’s true feelings. Hard to make progress if you won’t face the issues,” Dr. Cosgrove explained.
“Okay, so maybe she favored David just a tiny bit – my oldest brother. I suppose that’s normal isn’t it – favoring the first born?”
“That a question?” 
“I suppose so. You have a response?” Smith asked.
Dr. Cosgrove removed his glasses and became thoughtful.
“It wasn’t the case in my family. I was the oldest and she was always on my case.”
“Really. Tell me more.”
“We’re here to talk about you, remember,” Dr. Cosgrove said.
“Oh, right. Sorry. So, what?” Smith said seeming confused.
“Your mother. Who did she really love the most?” Dr. Cosgrove repeated.
“You’re not going to let this go, are you? Shall I just choose a sibling at random? Will that make you happy?” Smith asked.
“You feel the need to make me happy, do you?” Dr. Cosgrove asked.
“I’ll do whatever it takes to get out of this place as soon as possible. You tell me what you want to hear and I’ll produce it.”
“I want to hear that you are willing to work on your problem. I want to hear you exploring your true relationship with your mother.”
“Okay. I hated her. I ran off lots of times to get away from her. Even this place is better than home was when I was a kid – and I really hate this place.”
“Now we’re getting somewhere. Why do you hate this place?”
“Guess!” Smith said, crossing his arms and putting on a childish pout.
“The confinement. The food. The medicine. The activities. The staff. I don’t know.”
“All of the above but especially one of the nurses,” Smith said finally appearing to be somewhat interested in the conversation.
“Which one?”
“You’re on a roll, here, Doc. Guess, again. Let’s see how good you really are.”
“Well, let’s see. Jackson is nice to you. I’ve seen that. Burton likes you but she has a hard time showing it, I suppose. Jones hates everybody so that doesn’t really count, I guess.”
“What tells you she hates everybody?” Smith asked.
“Her gruff manner, I suppose.”  
“Gruff doesn’t always mean a person hates everybody,” Smith said.
“Oh, yes it does,” Dr. Cosgrove went on.”
“I’m gruff sometimes and that doesn’t mean I hate everybody,” Smith said taking offense. 
“Last session you said as much – you hate this place and everybody in it.”
“I didn’t say that. What do you mean?” Smith asked.
“Oh. Perhaps that wasn’t you. Sorry,” Dr. Cosgrove said. “Back to your mother.”
“Why are you so obsessed with my mother? I tell you she loves me.”
“And you love her?”
“She always loved me.”
“Okay, so she loves you. Do you love her?” Dr. Cosgrove continued.
“How could any man not love his mother – deep down, I mean, you know,” Smith asked.
“Well, if she was hurtful or deprived him or always showed favoritism to the others, I suppose.”
“Would it be reasonable not to love a mother who was those ways you just mentioned?” Smith asked.
“You tell me. You’re the one with the problem.”
“Sometimes, Doc, it seems to me like you’re the one with the problem,” Smith said. “Sometimes it seems like you just refuse to admit you have some problems – like a doctor can’t have any.”
“And sometimes I think you are my biggest problem, Smith,” Dr. Cosgrove countered. “I should dismiss you and get you out of my hair for good. You don’t want to get better. You just enjoy harassing me.”
“I hate this whole thing, you know,” Smith said. “I’m not much good at taking responsibility and this therapy thing is becoming way too much responsibility.” 
“We each have to shoulder what comes our way,” Smith. “Can’t hide behind pretend problems in here in order to avoid the real ones.”
“But you can,” Smith said. “The great doctor can just pretend he’s fine and then go home every night and enjoy his freedom and never have to own up to anything.”
“How do you feel right now? Smith,” Dr. Cosgrove asked, softly.
“Not sure. How does it seem to you that I feel?” Smith asked, turning it back on Cosgrove.
“I think you’re beginning to make some progress. Just about ready to move beyond mother stuff and begin digging into yourself – the responsibility stuff. I think we had a breakthrough, today,” Cosgrove answered, smiling and visibly relaxing.
“See you tomorrow, then, I guess,” Smith said.
“Until tomorrow,” Cosgrove said offering Smith his hand. They managed a sincere shake. 
Cosgrove left the room.
Dr. Brown, the chief of staff at the hospital, entered and took a seat. He had been watching the session via a monitor. He began speaking to Smith.
“I’d say your new approach where patients and therapists trade places is working quite well, Dr. Smith.”
[Could a re-read be in order?]


The Johnny Appleseed of Smiles
An autobiographical glimpse
by Tom Gnagey
© 2008
2,344 words

(A true-life odyssey of personal discovery by a five year old boy,
suddenly possessed with magical personal powers!  Really!)

When I was five years old, I discovered something truly remarkable about myself. I possessed absolutely awesome magical powers! It's true!! By merely smiling at Grumpy old Mr. Graves, I could transform his mean looking, perennially scary face, into a happy, grinning, pleasure center.
It gets even better! When I would sidle up beside him and begin talking, grumpy old Mr. Graves would speak back to me, and, I observed, in a most pleasant tone and manner.  
Well, every kid in town knew that grumpy old Mr. Graves had never smiled in his entire long, long, life, and that he only spoke when absolutely necessary - like when ordering things in stores and such. So, you can understand how I, and all of my friends, were fully convinced that I possessed magnificent magical powers, never before known in the entire history of man. Having been an orphan, I fantasized about the possibility that I had, in reality, come from another planet - Grinton, perhaps - having been sent to Earth to save mankind.  
Buddy, the one, nay-saying, disbeliever in the group, bet me my powers weren't strong enough to get a smile out of Miss Terry (Miss Terry the Terrible, as she was known). She had taught 8th grade math since time began - or so the story went. A rare, breath-holding hush fell over that gathering of my devoted, fellow, pre-school followers, as, chin up, I fearlessly accepted Buddy's challenge..
It was widely accepted among the younger set in those parts, that Miss Terry's cheeks had been formed without the necessary muscles required to pull them into a smile. It was also common knowledge that her heart had been formed from a lump of blackest coal, thereby explaining why she possessed no feelings of kindness, whatsoever!
I had my job cut out for me - no doubt about that!
Push came to shove one cold February morning at precisely seven thirty five, as Miss Terry predictably left her home for the walk to school. With four witnesses hiding in the shrubs that lined the sidewalk, I met her at her gate. I opened it for her saying, "Good morning, Miss Terry," in as cheery a voice and with as smiley a face as I could muster, considering the significant distraction of my chest busting, run-away, thumping heart.
:"Well, Good morning to you, Master Gary and thank you so much for opening the gate. You're becoming quite the young gentleman."
There was a smile on her face. Perhaps just a hint, but I had seen a smile. Both corners of her mouth turned up and that certainly qualified as a smile, even if it had lasted only a second. I sure hoped that at least one of the other guys had been close enough to verify it!
Apparently my young compatriots were less well hidden than they should have been, for as she passed each one, she nodded her head, again smiled that fleeting smile, and - by name - bade them each, "Good morning."
From that day forward, I proudly carried the nickname, "Ol' M-1," (the Magic One).  
That night it came to me, that not only had I caused her to smile and be pleasant to me, I had also, passed on the urge for her to pleasantly greet others she would meet that day! The overwhelming feeling of absolute power surged throughout my young being.
In the weeks following the discovery of my awesome, new found powers, I contemplated, all quite seriously, how I should use them. I considered several marvelous secret identities ("Smileman," and "The Grinning Guy"), complete with cape, cowl and coral tights, but, seeing as my friends already knew about my powers, I decided there would really be no way to keep secret, even such a fine alter ego.
My own hero, at five (and in some ways, even today, I suppose), was Johnny Appleseed. His unselfish seeding of the Midwestern United States with fruit to feed a generation that he would never even know, had made a tremendous impact on me. In my home, an altruistic approach to living was the cornerstone of our value system, also, and had been thoughtfully imparted to me even by that early age.
I remember - as if it were yesterday - that April morning when I awoke at daybreak, sat up straight in my bed and said out loud: "I'll become the Johnny Appleseed of Smiles."
I scrambled into my pin striped coverhalls (as I called them), sped down stairs, and stopped off in Mom and Pop's bedroom only long enough to solemnly take my mother's hand in mine and make this earnest request: "From now on, Mom, please call me Johnny."
Then, off I put to begin my mission in life, and may I just add, it has been a grand and rewarding mission (even - alas - without the snazzy, corral, tights!).
By age six I noticed that my friends would often get the same pleasant looks and cheery conversation from those at whom they would flash a smile. Rather than being in any way disheartened by their parallel success, I just figured that somehow I had been able to mystically impart some small portion of my magic to them. What a powerfully helpful guy I was becoming! I knew my parents were proud of me for it, even though, for some unexplainable reason, they opted to continue calling me Gary.
As a child I didn't, of course, understand the psychological principles behind my 'powers,' though I did pretty accurately comprehend the sociological impact. Treat people - even total strangers - with kindness and respect, and most will immediately be affected in two major, positive ways:  
First, they will relax and acquire a reassuring sense of personal safety and trust as they are reminded that there truly are friendly and comfortable people out there in their World.  
Second, except for the most shy or vilest of the lot, they tend to pass on that pleasant, reassuring, experience - that Positive Social Encounter - to at least the next several people they, themselves, meet. 
This ripple effect is unbelievable. At seven I had calculated that if I performed my magic on just two people early each morning, and each of them did the same with only two others and so on down the line - repeated just nine more times - that by nine A.M., over one thousand folks would have been "smilized" (as I had come to call the process). Considering that there were only 704 people in my little town, (well, 706 if you read the sign on the north end of town) that meant that quite a few got a double dose, which seemed all quite fitting, considering the generalized early morning grumpiness I had encountered on the west side of town. I always tried to smilize Mr. Miller, the rural mailman, before he began his five A.M. route. That way, I assumed, he could smilize the entire surrounding country-side.
Presently, I noticed a new aspect to this whole smilizing thing: My mere presence (even without a smile on my face or a cheery greeting from my mouth) brought out smiles and happy conversation from most all of those I'd meet. The grown-ups would all grin in my direction, chat with me a while, and pat me on my head. Wow! That seemed to prove it, all right. I could even smile telepathically!! What a revelation!
Now, you may not care to understand anymore about smilizing than I did at age six, and that's fine. Just smile your way through the byways of your life, offer pleasant greetings to those you meet, and manage a simple friendly nod to those who are beyond earshot. You will become a major and important player in smilizing the faces and warming the hearts of all America (and beyond!). (You see I've recently discovered that I can now transfer my magical powers to others by merely writing things for them to read. Will wonders never cease!!!)
If, however, you care to pursue the philosophical, sociological, and psychological aspects of the process, read on.
The basic social / psychological fact of the matter is this: A World or neighborhood or household, populated by unhappy, discontent, suspicious or angry people, is an uncomfortable, if not an outright frightening and hurtful place in which to live. When populated by happy, helpful, content, trusting, and caring people, life can be grand!
The basic philosophic premise is this: Whether motivated by an altruistic desire to improve the lot of all mankind; or merely by the more self-centered desire to live a comfortable life, unhassled by angry, maladjusted people, and to be freed from the significant dollar costs stemming from mental illness, crime and such; helping the people of the World to become happier and better adjusted, greatly eases and improves your own, and everyone else's, state of affairs. Not to do so, inevitability hurts everyone, including yourself, and just may eventually cause the destruction of the human species. 
The basic method is this - the Positive Social Encounter: People who practice P.S.E., both socially and in business, thought-fully attempt to make each encounter with another person, a positive, comfortable, self-esteem providing, experience. We want that other person to leave us feeling good about us, him, and the nature of the population in general. This builds a sense of trust, belonging, acceptance, importance, and ultimately, allows a secure and caring relationship within the family of man. People who feel that way are quite likely to become positive, contributing, pleasant, easy to get along with folks! What a grand World that will be!!
No one dares be too busy for this simple, gentle activity. How much extra time does it take to smile or nod or say, "Good morning," as you pass someone on the sidewalk or in the hall? None, of course. It's not an undertaking that can be fully successful when practiced by only a few - though every practitioner helps. So, let us make it a point to smile, nod, chat, listen, support, please and thank you, our ways through each encounter, every day. Mankind will be glad you did. You will be glad you did. There is no finer, spirit cleansing, feeling than to lie in bed at night knowing that because of your own positive efforts during the day just past, the World is a better, happier, place than you had found it that morning.
Recently, and partly due, I suppose to the fact my hair is now gray and my walk has slowed a bit, I have discovered an interesting twist to the whole smilizing process. For most of my life, when someone in a car, and I on foot, would approach an intersection simultaneously, even though I had the right of way, I would smile, wave, and motion the car to go ahead of me. Most drivers smiled back and I assume they got my message that there truly were some nice guys left in their World (at worst, I had given them no reason to be angered by being slowed on their way to some place important to them).
These days, I often assert my right and move out into the intersection, but as I get to the mid-way point, I always turn and wave at the driver, mouthing a big, "Thank you." My theory is this: Before, when I merely motioned them on, they realized that I was a good guy. Now, from my, 'thank you,' to them, they not only know I'm a good guy, but by letting me go first, they also understand that THEY are a good guy. And how will folks who see themselves as good guys act toward others they are about to meet? Perhaps all these years I have been missing the very best aspect of this smilizing process. I'm pleased I finally slowed down enough to discover it! We must each believe we're a good guy!
End note: The old brain - that part of our brain that we humans share with the lower animals - allows us to become selfishly angry and vengeful in order to survive in the kill or be killed world of the wolves, sharks and tigers. The new brain, possessed only by us humans, allows us to easily skip right over those primitive angry and revenge reactions, and, instead, act as the calm, rational, logical, helpful, caring, beings, only we humans, in all of the known universe, can be. To do less, renounces and abandons our humanity, and lowers us to the level of ... . I believe that along with this magnificent, fleeting, privilege to be this human being that we are, comes the responsibility to utilize those absolutely unique, higher plane powers that have been passed on to us, alone.
If you are prone to exhibit those lower-animal responses of anger, rage, and revenge, take time and learn how to use the new - the exclusively human - part of your brain instead. There are a wide variety of counselors, psychologists, social workers, psychiatrists, clergymen and other professionals available to assist you. Chances are that it is not your fault for having been taught to respond with that automatic, self-centered, old-brain-anger, but now its time to grow up and replace those primitive patterns with the more positive, helpful, growth-producing, human-like traits.
Your approach to living can be that of a careful problem solver: calm, happy, comfortable, rational, caring and rewarding. It need not focus on those self-defeating, unproductive, angry, vengeful feelings, nor on the personal unfairness often read into certain situations. Every smile brings you one step closer.
My wish for you is an actively positive approach to living your life, so that you, and those around you, can all experience the comfortable, helpful, happy, fruitful life that is the most precious birthright of every human being.