SAVANNAH, Ga. — You can learn a lot from children – and 6-year-old Jaden Hayes is proof of that.
In his short life, Jaden has lost a lot. He’s lost more than many grown-ups.
Two years ago, his father died. Then, July 12, his mother put him to bed – but she never woke up. She died unexpectedly.
Now Jaden is teaching us a lesson in love, compassion and pure strength.
“I was getting him ready for bed, tucking him in, and he says ‘Auntie, I’m so tired of everybody with frowny faces. We need to make people smile,” Jaden’s aunt Barbara DiCola told Channel 2 Action News.
“You’re absolutely right, what do we do?” she asked.
“We have to walk around and make people smile. Can we do that?” Jaden answered.
His aunt told him to sleep on it and come up with some ideas.
“I’ll be darned if that boy didn’t wake me up at 5 in the morning with ideas,” DiCola said.
The two bought trinkets and candy (tiny dinosaurs and rubber duckies are favorites) and made their way to downtown Savannah.
Jaden kept his eye out for people that didn’t look happy.
“He’d say, ‘Auntie, they’re not smiling. Let’s get ‘em!”
When Jaden handed them a gift they’d say, “What’s this for?”
“You weren’t smiling. I want you to smile,” he answered.
Jaden kept track. 275 smiles in just two days.
Even news anchor Mike Cihla at WTOC in Savannah heard about Jaden and made his way downtown to meet him.
And Jaden’s not done.
His aunt couldn’t be prouder.
You see, when Jaden lost his mother, she lost her beloved sister.
“If it weren’t for him, I’d totally lose it,” DiCola said. “This young man has been through so much and lost so much in his life and he’s worried about making other people smile. It’s his joy. It makes him happy.”
DiCola told Channel 2 her family wasn’t sure how Jaden was going to handle the loss of his mother.
“Everyone said, ‘How’s he going to handle it?’ Well, he showed us,” she said.
Jaden plans to continue his mission on Tuesday in downtown Savannah. If you’re having a bad day, need some inspiration or just want to meet the 6-year-old behind #thesmileexperiment, Jaden invites you to join him.