This I Believe
I believe in the power of a smile. I’ve always been a smiler, it comes naturally to me. So much so, that I find myself smiling at strangers on the street if our eyes meet. This propensity for smiling often causes strangers to begin conversations while we are standing in line or sitting in waiting rooms. I am surprised how easily people open up to reveal their life stories or concerns after this simple facial gesture.
I believe that the smile is a powerful form of communication. A sincere smile can warm you up in an instant. It can shout and calm. A smile can make you feel connected and help heal after harsh words. It can say, “I love you, I care about you, Don’t worry, Be strong.” A smile makes you feel good—both giving it and receiving it. It speaks volumes.
There have been times in my past when I tried to refrain from this reflexive smile because I know it can be seen as unsophisticated, even phony. In addition, I don’t always want to engage in conversation with strangers. I like silence and my own thoughts. However, inhibiting a smile takes too much concentrated effort and that, in itself, seems unnatural.
In no place is my urge to smile more compelling than when I visit child care centers and primary schools. I feel completely at home with a group of young children and enjoy being among such interesting people. When I first see their faces, the impulse to smile overwhelms. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not one of those syrupy smilers. I take children seriously and never laugh or smile at them when they are being serious, even when they say something that is unintentionally funny. I often go into a classroom and sit awhile as children go about their important play. We exchange smiles and immediately connect.
But occasionally there is that child who is all eyes, watching me but not smiling. This same child will stay very close to me. I make small talk and he stares.
Then it’s time for me to leave. I stand at the door waving goodbye as the group of children smile and shout, “Bye, Mrs. Pack!” There he is, looking at me—this time with something in his eyes. What is it? Does he have something he wants to say? Is that a smile behind his eyes? I think, “If only I had more time to get to know him…”
I smile at him and hope that something in my smile transcends shyness, fear, or distance; that we have somehow connected; that he knows his worth and that long after I’m gone, he will be able to receive and return a smile. And feel really good.
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