happiest place on earth?
I recently came back from a family vacation to Orlando, Florida.  One of the places we visited was Disneyworld’s Magic Kingdom, the so called “Happiest Place on Earth.”  Here is a picture of my family that I took.  Do they look happy to you?
I think that the absence of smiling faces was one of the most surreal part of the entire experience.  But even though you couldn’t see it, I knew that behind all the masks were smiling faces everywhere.  In fact, the only time I didn’t smile was when I had to pay for meals and snacks.
Smiling is an interesting thing.  One of my favorite lines from the movie Elf is this one:
As a kid, I remember learning about the biology of a smile.  I was taught that it takes less muscles to smile than it does to not smile.  It is like our genetics want us to be happy and factored in the fact that a lot of us are inherently lazy.  Since that is the case, why do we see so many people working harder to not smile? 
The power of a smiling face is not to be downplayed.  How do you see someone smile and have it not affect you in a positive way? A friendly smile can put people at ease and provide lift at the same time.  Smiling is my favorite too!
One of the most powerful things about Rotary is that “Rotary Opens Opportunities” for us to give people all over the world something to smile about.  They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but I feel that these smiles are worth a thousand thank you’s.
Why are these beautiful children smiling? It is because YOU gave money to Rotary’s Annual Fund SHARE program, which helped pay for this permanent and reliable clean water source in this remote African village.  You simply cannot fake those smiles on these beautiful children!

Why are these beautiful children smiling? It is because YOU gave money to Rotary’s Polio Plus initiative and they all received the polio vaccine.  These children will now be able to live a life free from the debilitating effects of this awful virus. Again, there is nothing fake about those smiles and the happiness and gratitude they represent.
When I see all the need that is out there in the world, it does two things for me.  First, it makes me realize how blessed I am and that I have plenty of things to smile about.  Secondly, I appreciate the opportunity I have through Rotary to give so that other people around the world that are not as fortunate as me will have something to smile about. 
When I first joined The Burley Rotary Club, one of our traditions was to always sing the song “Smile” from the Rotary Hymnal.  It was a fun reminder of the power we have as Rotarians to smile and to give others something to smile about.  “Smile, and the world smiles with you, sing a song.  Don’t be weary just be cheery all day long.  Whenever your trials, your troubles and your cares, seem to be more than you can really bear, Smile, and the world smiles with you…”
Even though we find ourselves wearing masks everywhere we go, I hope we will still make sure we don’t lose the habit of smiling and making others smile too.  That way, when the masks do come off, us Rotarians will continue to make a difference in this world.  I am so grateful that Rotary Opens Opportunities for all of us to be the happiest people on earth.

Ben Nelson '20-'21 District 5400 Governor