A Foreward from Matt:
I came up with the idea for Smilocracy over four years ago in Chicago when I was inspired by my former wife Elizabeth. Fate and a series of wild twists and turns, though, led me to 81 year old Lois Severin, and the unbelievable adventure you’re about to read. It was Lois who finally brought my dream to life and in the process redeemed me and the Smilocracy Vision. This 7 Billion Smile Campaign is my gift to her. No words, money or recognition could ever repay her for what she means to me.
Lois, thank you. I love you with all my heart.
My ‘First Supper’
By Matt Goodman
This wild, unbelievable tale began last April around the Jewish holiday of Passover. I was going through the typical struggles entrepreneurs face: lack of funding, partners dropping out, and a whole host of other headaches and pains. My dream, Smilocracy, was a big idea: a digital platform whose mission was to make the world smile. It needed a lot of help. Little did I know that it would come in the form of an 80-year-old hippie with a ridiculously infectious smile.
I had heard stories about Lois from my aunt. They were curious to say the least: She didn’t wear bras, she “collected” boys like baseball cards, she twice tried out for the St. Louis football cardinals cheerleading squad, and for several years she lived in a VW van with her 3 kids.
My aunt knew we’d “do damage together”, and waited almost a year before finally introducing us. Finally in April of 2015 I was invited over to Lois’ famous house with the pink door for Passover. It was an offer I was desperately waiting for!
To say Lois and I had an instant connection would be an understatement. The second I walked into her house, I felt the gravitational pull of something extraordinary.
First there was the house. It was unlike anything I had ever stepped foot in. From Lois’ mountainous hat collection to her collage wallpaper of boy crushes, every square inch was covered with random oddities she had “collected” from her unique life. I describe it as Pee Wee’ Herman’s Playhouse meets Grandma’s house. It was a five course meal for the eyes.
Then there were the Passover guests. They were as eclectic and colorful as the scenery. There was a former nun, a gay couple, and several pillars of the African American community. It was unlike any Passover dinner I had ever attended, and I’ve been to quite a few crazy ones. The conversation was engaging, funny, lively, and contested.
Finally, there was Lois. She was simply put out of this world. She cooked, she cleaned, she served, she entertained, she danced, she made outrageous sex jokes. She was like a Grandma on steroids, “Groids”, as I call it. I could hardly believe she was 80. She was awe-inspiring to watch.
I knew after this first dinner that I had found a kindred spirit in Lois. I even had a vision: Lois’ home would one day be the home of Smilocracy, and she would be its joyful FIRST ambassador.
Lois gets diagnosed with cancer
Fate, however, has an interesting way of working. It was just one week after that glorious dinner that both our worlds got flipped upside down.
I called up Lois one day to check in, and she told me the upsetting news: She had breast cancer. I was shocked. My glorious vision of making the world smile with this extraordinary woman suddenly vanished. I now envisioned the somber road ahead: radiation treatment, hospital stays, and who knows what else. I knew I had to change my thinking. After all, I was the Chief Smile Officer of Smilocracy!!
Once I got over the crushing blow, I sprung my platform into action. I figured Lois wasn’t just going to lie down and die. This was a perfect opportunity to get the smiles going and uplift Lois and her loved ones around her.
Inspired by her ridiculously positive attitude, I came up with the concept, Breast Cancer ‘Aliveness’ Month, and asked if I could move in. I thought it was an ideal situation. Lois was a widow and I was a bootstrapping entrepreneur that needed to save money on rent. Unfortunately, Lois’ initial response was NOT what I anticipated.
However, I remained undeterred and persisted. And after several weeks of lobbying and laying on the charm thick, she finally relented. On top of the Moonrise Hotel in the Delmar Loop, on a full moon no less, she asked me to move in. I had accomplished my mission. The “House with the Pink Door” was now Smilocracy Headquarters.
Now to disclaim: Lois and I weren’t a match made in heaven right away. There were your typical roommate challenges to overcome like giving each other space, the divvying up of chores, and both of our propensities to walk around naked. But we found a way to make it work. I cooked, Lois cleaned. Lois cut the grass, I took out the trash. Sometimes. And the naked thing, well, Lois got the good end of the stick on that.
But it was the morning cancer treatments that really strengthened our bond. The two of us woke up at 5:30 am EVERY morning. Lois would make me a cup of coffee, and then I would ‘chauffeur’ her to treatment in her famous “pimped-out-pink” Volvo.
I saw an amazing side to her those mornings. I was awe-struck by her courage, attitude and positive spirit. She genuinely seemed happy to be going through cancer treatment. It was a sight to behold. Nurses, doctors, the receptionist, they all got a smile and a hug when they saw Lois. To me, Lois was treating them with her positive spirit and smiles as much as they were treating her for cancer. And I still think her treatment worked better!
Breast Cancer ‘Aliveness’ Month
I felt the world needed to witness what I was witnessing each and every morning. I made it my mission to share her story in words, pictures, and song as loudly, compellingly and dutifully as possible. I developed out the Breast Cancer ‘Aliveness’ Month concept with my business partner Shad. And with her help we painted her whole yard pink.
Below is the video that my team created in her honor. The song is Lois’ choice: Heroes by David Bowie.
Running for President!
After her victorious breast cancer battle, Lois decided to do the natural thing survivors do: Run for President of the United States!
It was Lois’ birthday, March 4th, when our mutual friend Jackie Dirksmeyer, who runs an amazing organization called Feed My Peeps, wrote on Lois’ Facebook wall: “Happy Birthday! Lois for President!”. It was just an off-hand comment, a quick throw away line. But it triggered something in both of us. We thought, why not?! The flyer below is what I dreamed up, and we started campaigning!
Yes, most people thought we were crazy for running for President of the United States, especially MY family, but I saw something in Lois that the other candidates couldn’t touch. She was joyous and, more importantly, she knew how to UNITE people around that joy. I didn’t see Donald or Hillary EVER doing that.
The result was something her-storic. Lois became the first woman candidate to ever run on a platform of Global Happiness! To prove, Lois actually ran for president, read the write up she got in the St. Louis Jewish Light or watch the segment Art Holiday from KSDK Channel 5 even did on Lois. It’s an awesome piece and I’m very proud of it!
The Future: Dreaming even BIGGER
Now although Lois didn’t win the presidency, we did prove something to ourselves: We could accomplish just about anything if we put our minds to it. That why our goal is to dream even BIGGER. We want to wake the average person out of his cynical slumber, and invite them to join us on our BIGGEST dream: to Create Peace on Earth!
That’s why our next BIG campaign is to start a new kind of Peace Movement that we’re calling the STL Peace Train. Every week it will spotlight a new STL neighborhood to ENLIVEN with smiles. We plan on doing random acts of kindness, dance-offs, group HUGS and more. Of course, we will have plenty of our famous smile stickers too. The goal is to raise the positive energy first in St. Louis and then around the world. And we’re not going to stop until we achieve Peace on Earth!
Bridging Peace with SMILES
We see The Peace Train as being the ultimate bridge between between different races, cultures, ethnicities, even religions. After all, ALL people smile in the same language. Perhaps the smile can finally even resolve a conflict as old and tiresome as the one in the Middle East.
In addition, we are continuing our smile missionary work in our hometown of Saint Louis, where we continue to build a strong network of partners and volunteers. If you’re interested in partnering or volunteering, we’d love to connect with you.
Finally our BIGGEST vision is ready to be revealed. It’s called Smile BUX, an alternate digital currency backed by the abundant nature of SMILES. I’ve been working on the idea for years, and I’m finally ready to reveal it to the world! It’s truly revolutionary and it’s going to change the way we think about money forever!
Please check out the video presentation below to learn more about the concept. I’d love to get feedback on the idea. It’s currently in development so check back soon for updates!
Next Year in Jerusalem
I often joke that Lois and I are aliens sent here on a mission to make the world smile. With all of the things that have happened in our smile spreading adventures, who knows, it could be true.
Case in point, just a few weeks ago I found this hat below in a local thrift store in St. Louis. It’s straight from Jerusalem. The inside label is even printed in Hebrew!
Since we’re both Jewish, every year at Passover we say the same thing: “Next year in Jerusalem.” We have a lot more work to do, but our goal is for next Passover dinner to be spreading our famous smiles in the Middle East…