I believe in the Power of a Smile
3 days after the Trade Center Towers collapsed, I witnessed two women holding yellow hard hats in their arms, wearing dust masks down around their necks and smiles across their faces. It was a strange thing to see a smile beneath their tired and red eyes at that moment, in that place. It was strange but at the same time beautiful.
I believe in the power of a smile. If you think about it, a smile is a strange thing. It has a strange power. A smile can destroy fear and it can ease the pain of the dying. It can leap from face to face, and it spreads faster than any virus.
Sadly, the truth is that a smile is never safe, and it is easy to see why children are terrified by the face of a sad clown. Actually, I’m terrified by the face of any clown, but that’s another essay. But, a smile can haunt our dreams. The evil smiles of terrorists and the insane smiles of torturers tear at the fabric of our dreams. And the most horrifying smile is the smile we cannot see on the face of the terrorized and the tortured. We know fear has found us when we cannot find a way to smile, and the things we fear are the things we could never smile about.
I believe, nonetheless, that smiles can also be the beginning of hope. The faces of those women on that night in New York City showed a weary hope. They were smiling because they had to, because someone needed to smile while the rest of the city cried. Rain was pummeling the city. Brown rain mixed with ash and soot, making a mud that slowly ran down the gutters. Pain was all around. Grief was on every face. The smiles on the faces of those women seemed misplaced, and maybe even dead wrong, but at that time, in that city, smiling seemed desperately necessary.
Maybe I was starved for some hope that night in New York. I don’t know what brought smiles to their faces that night after 3 days after 9/11, but I was happy for it, and somehow, I entered their smiles. Maybe not all smiles are true, and maybe smiling won’t stop the ebb and flow of pain, but I believe a smile is a beginning of hope, because they did smile, and I did smile back.
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