What Do Bill Maher, Charlie Chaplin and Michael Jackson Have in Common?

Can we smile when all looks lost? Can we let our dark clouds go and move on with light-heartedness?

Roshana Ariel
5 min readFeb 12, 2021


Charlie Chaplin encourages “The Gamin” to smile in this image from “Modern Times.” — Creative Commons

A year ago, over the New Year’s holiday, my boyfriend and I met up with my son and his fiancee in Maui, Hawaii. We stayed in a little Airbnb listing called the Serenity Cottage in a rural area on the island.

My son, Kris, and Jiajia, his now-wife, live in China. We all decided to travel across the world to see Bill Maher do his annual New Year’s Eve Eve (December 30, 2019) show in Hawaii.

At the end of a hilariously delightful show, Bill suggested we take up the song “Smile” as a national anthem to help us all get along. He said, “If you can’t understand why your relatives love that political party on the other side or why some people are just plain nasty, let it go. Smile, be nice, even if you can’t stand those ‘other’ people.”

As the audience joined Maher, accompanied by Joe Walsh, in singing the old Charlie Chaplin tune, special guest Sarah Silverman came out on stage, followed by Willie Nelson and Woody Harrelson.

It was heartwarming and unifying and so far from the dreariness of the news that when I got home, back to Colorado, I decided to learn the song. I would make it my personal anthem. I found a background track I liked to sing with — the Michael Jackson version.

How hopeful things looked at the beginning of last year

In Maui, we were all innocently looking forward to a wonderful 2020. Kris especially was hoping that 2020 was going to be much better than 2019 had been.

But 2020 had other ideas for him and Jiajia right off the bat.

After a beautiful week in paradise, we went to the airport to return to our respective homes. We said our good-byes fairly quickly before making our way toward long, separate lines going to separate parts of the airport and ultimately opposite sides of the globe.

While my boyfriend, Robby, and I waited in line, Kris called. They weren’t going anywhere, he said. The return tickets he had purchased earlier would take them through Canada for a…



Roshana Ariel

I write about how to live life well even when it’s crazy or difficult. I’ve had lots of practice! As an editor, I love to rewrite my life to make it beautiful.