I have always been a smiler, that’s a word right? I smile until my face hurts. It’s who I am. I also smile when I’m uncomfortable, and I even get this crazy smile when I’m really angry. It’s not my best look. I was voted “Smiles for Miles” my senior year of high school, which makes it official.
When I was young, with zero responsibilities, I worked in retail. That is a thankless job. All day long, people were so rude; they didn’t even acknowledge I was a person behind the register. People seemed to look right through me. Days turned into weeks and it began to get me down. Then I realized that people are so much in their own heads, they forget their compassion and empathy towards others. I decided right there behind that register, that I would make eye contact, hold it and genuinely smile at everyone I see, even the people I didn’t really want to smile at. When you make that simple connection with another I really believe you are each recognizing Christ in the other. When I did that those same people began to change. No one wants to be in their own head. All it takes is a smile, eye contact and a kind word and people are bending over backwards to be kind in return. A smile is a great gift! It’s free, there’s an unlimited supply of them, and you usually spontaneously get one back. This became a quickly became a “thing” for me and almost twenty years later it has become second nature.
What makes a smile beautiful? It really isn’t about full lips and unnaturally white teeth. Remember when Ross from Friends over bleached his teeth for a date and he had to cover his mouth all night? He was finally outed when she turned off the lights and his teeth glowed in the dark! A great smile is one that somehow reaches your heart where Jesus lives and makes you feel good. Who is best at smiling? Babies. A baby’s smile reminds me of the bible passage that Matthew, Mark and Luke wrote about Jesus saying, “Let the little children come to me…for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” They smile all the time too! We all knew how to share a genuine smile, some of us are out of practice, and some others actually are self-conscious about their smile. Smiling is like singing, in a way; it is a muscle that needs to be practiced. The people in our lives, who have really beautiful smiles, flash them often.
Hopefully you still have the Valentine’s Day “warm fuzzies” because I want to personally challenge you to give it a try. Next time you are at the store, the gate, checking into the doctor’s office, make eye contact and smile before handing them your ID card. Another good way to pick a smile target is when you are walking towards someone and they are walking towards you, like passing someone on the street. They see you coming so you are less likely to catch them off guard. Your small gift will be rewarded. Not everyone will return your smile, but most people will. You aren’t doing it to get something in return but it often turns out that way. I’ve gotten extra coupons, free samples, gotten ahead in line simply because the other person appreciates the recognition of their humanity. They in turn pass that smile along to someone else.
After I became Catholic, I discovered that Mother Teresa also believed in the power of a smile. She said many things about smiling, but my favorite hangs by my front door as a reminder before I leave. It reads, “Every time you smile at someone it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing.” She also said, “Let us not use bombs and guns to overcome the world. Let us use love and compassion. Peace begins with a smile. Smile five times a day at someone you don’t really want to smile at; do it for peace.”
Our Blessed Mother often didn’t speak to those who saw her- she smiled at them! Bernadette Soubirous saw a beautiful smiling woman. Therese of Lisieux was healed as a girl because the statue of Our Lady in her room smiled at her! That statue was renamed Our Lady of the Smile and I have her in my living room, with a St. Therese chaplet hanging around her. Therese said, “A word or a smile is often enough to put fresh life on a despondent soul.” She also said, “Miss no single opportunity of making some small sacrifice. Here by a smiling look, there by a kindly word. Always doing the smallest right and doing it all for love.” If we all took the time to make eye contact and genuinely smile at those put on our path, we would be smiling at Jesus and when they smile back at us, He smiles back at us because in our hearts is where He lives! We need to recognize him in the people around us just as we recognize Him in the tabernacle.
This is my personal gift. I’ve been doing it for a very long time because I remember a young woman who spent her days feeling unseen. When one feels unseen, feelings of unworthiness and being unloved are not far behind. A smile can change that. You can change that.
“Love Is In The Air, So Spread A Smile!” contributed by Dollia Lemus.