This I Believe

Julia - Port Matilda, Pennsylvania
Entered on November 18, 2006
Age Group: Under 18

I believe in the power of a smile. Whether it is the smile of a toothy and awkward child; the smile of a flirty teenager with her sparkling teeth, shimmering lips, and glowing pink cheeks; the smile of a kindergartener as he presents his artwork to his grandma; the smile his grandma returns lovingly with a wrinkled face; or the smile of a blissful toddler with a single tooth and chubby cheeks, clinging to his father’s strong fingers as he learns to walk—everyone smiles in the same language.

I admit that several years ago, I regarded a smile as a quotidian occurrence, a mere simplicity of life. At least this was how I felt until a fateful summer day when my great uncle passed away. I hardly knew him, having just seen him for the second time that past summer, yet I cried for hours, blowing my nose into a wad of tissues. I reminisced upon a summer family picnic on the lakeside, focusing on how happy he was when he was chomping corn on the cob—dripping with melted butter and glistening with salt crystals—with his crooked teeth in a wide grin. I pictured the way that his salt-and-pepper colored eyebrows arched, his cheeks stuck out like a chipmunk, and the bags under his eyes quivered with joy when he would smile. His teeth, yellowed from lack of dental insurance, appeared in a wide crescent moon shaped smile, spreading his lighthearted spirit amongst my family. His smile was imprinted into my memory.

At his funeral, a memorial service, we celebrated my uncle’s life. Surprisingly, I saw more smiles than tears. Being a youngster, only eight and three-quarters years old, it muddled with my brain. Why was everyone smiling, looking almost happy, when our loved one was gone forever? Dragging my aunt off to a corner by the sleeve, I asked my urgent question to which I still remember her answer. She softly cooed, “Uncle Leon always said that a smile means a lot more than a frown.” This is my creed.

To this day, when I feel miserable, I smile. I flash my pearly whites, redden my cheeks, and put on a happy face. To me, the best way to show compassion for others is to smile. Although a seemingly simple act, a smile shines like a beacon during a raging storm. It makes others feel loved in their time of need. This is why my second nature is to smile at strangers when our eyes meet in the halls and to greet friends and family with an exuberant grin. This is why whenever I see a glum faced person, I direct a loving smile toward them in hopes of brightening up their day. To me, every day that I don’t smile is a day that I’ve wasted.

Some people say that smiling is contagious; well it just goes to show that smiling is an infection worth having.