Years ago, a friend solemnly informed me that I smile too much. She said that no one should be happy all the time, and besides, smiling causes wrinkles. I felt sheepish, ashamed, embarrassed. I think I even apologized.
Now, I wonder. What on earth was I apologizing for?
People share few common languages. One is mathematics—numerical quantities, standard symbols, and complex formulas indicating the same knowledge worldwide. Another shared language is art—vivid brushstrokes, graceful sculptures, and harmonious music invoking emotion in every art enthusiast. Although these languages span the globe, they exclude those individuals who see little salvaging power in the value of x, or who cannot muster great enthusiasm for Renoir or Donatello or Mozart.
Not everyone understands mathematics or art.
Everyone understands a smile. For this reason, I believe that smiles represent the salvation of humanity.
One night, while I was working at a movie theater concession stand, a stranger looked me in the eye and said, “You have a very beautiful smile.”
I assumed his words were an attempt at flirtation. Still, I kept smiling. “Thank you.”
He must have sensed a shift in my expression, a flicker of reluctance, because he hastened to elaborate. “No, really! A lot of places try to rush customers in and out. Your smile is refreshing. I feel like you’re actually happy to see me.” He laughed. “Of course, I could be wrong.”
His own smile confirmed the truth in his words, and suddenly my heart grew lighter. So what if I had spent the past three hours behind the counter? So what if I still had five hours to go? My smile had brightened this man’s day, and he had brightened mine. Nothing could cheapen the moment.
This experience confirmed my personal belief in the unrestricted language of smiling. I doubt that the stranger at the movie theater, as well as the countless other friends, acquaintances, and strangers who have complimented my smile, see any exceptional beauty in the smile itself. Rather, they appreciate what the smile represents, happiness and optimism and positive energy.
The language of the smile encompasses a sweeping spectrum of emotion. Smiles express amusement, joy, regret, recklessness, gratitude, doubt, sympathy, hope, admiration, affection, love—the list goes on. A smile requires no words, no excuses, no muddled translations. It requires only an open mind.
Now, when I remember my friend’s solemn words, I wish that I had thanked her for the compliment. I smile too much. I will continue smiling too much until my dying day. This is the surest method of telling my friends and family that I love them, of connecting with strangers in an age of skepticism, of speaking the same language as the rest of the world.
This, I will always believe.
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