Sunday, May 24, 2009

On Smiling

After dinner one night, we were just cooing over my three month old infant smiling. What is it about a baby’s smile that just makes you giggle, laugh out loud, feel so filled with love and happiness? Of course, I love to see my oldest Elijah smile, and my husband. But there is nothing like a baby’s smile. What is it?

My husband and I were just smiling and giggling over this little person’s smile and I got nervous that my five-year old Elijah would get jealous. But he just said, “when Ezra smiles, it makes me want to smile.”

How lovely a thing to hear! How perfect!

How happy it made that he wasn’t jealous, that the smile just made him happy.

So I tried it out at Ross. I smiled randomly at people who seemed unhappy or so focused on their goal they were unknowingly sporting frowns. I smiled and though they seemed tentative, they reciprocated. And the brief exchange was pleasant.

So, I try to do it more often with people everywhere. I try to remember that a smile is worth something. Unfortunately, I learned that a smile is worth more than I have in currency to the older gentleman who hasn’t received a smile in quite some time. The exchange sometimes includes an uninvited flirtation or “can I get your number?” Sometimes, I want to yank my smile back or say, “it’s just a smile! Not an invitation.” But I continue to smile and say thank you or no you cannot have my number.

I guess they are used to getting ugly mugs from people. Elijah has asked me about the ugly mug I’ve had on different occasions, “Mommy are you mad?”

“No honey, I’m not mad, why do you ask?” I reply with another question.
“Because you’re not smiling,” he lamented.

“I’m sorry,” and I give him the smile he deserves to see always.

On another occasion, it was simply, “I like it when you smile.” And I told him, “I like it when you smile.” And then we just smiled and our silly grins turned into laughter.

When I’m at work and smile at my students when they are down or deep in thought, their faces brighten and they smile back. I’ve even started smiling at random students in the hallways. They need those smiles, that energy, that warmth. I need that warmth and when I remember that a simple smile can supply warmth, I ask myself why aren’t you smiling and I reply with one.


  1. Hey...smiling does feel good. It's god to be reminded and to remind oneself. I've had the same reaction from people in the public. On the home base it's sometimes met with suspicion. That probably means more smiles are needed? Kinda like random acts of kindness on the cheap.

  2. I agree with Loretta, smiles are sometimes met with suspicion. This could be because people don't see them enough; and it might also be because people don't always know how to read them. A smile, like Ezra's, can bring joy. One spread between strangers can create the bond of a shared experience. A smile can carry a mulititude of meaning. I've learned to rely on one when I don't have the words. I think Mother Theresa described a smile as a gift or an act of love, but I also agree with Melville: "a smile is the chosen vehicle of all ambiguities."