I believe a smile is a gift anyone can give and anyone can receive.
For years I commuted on the city bus to and from work. As I approached my last month of pregnancy it was more comfortable to sit at the front of the bus. Every evening a man my father’s age sat next to me. Our conversation only consisted of hellos and goodbyes. I was tired by the end of the day and I had no energy for conversation, neither did he. It was all I could do to smile and wish him a nice evening.
The first day I returned to work, I went directly to the seat I had used before giving birth. As I began to daydream about my new baby and control my eagerness to get home, I failed to notice someone had sat down next to me. I heard a familiar “hello” followed by “what did you have”? I turned my head, smiled, and said “a healthy boy”. For the first time, the man beamed with a huge smile and said, “Congratulations, I hope he has his mother’s smile”.
Twenty three years later in the middle of my second career, I find myself working in an inner-city elementary school office where the student enrollment consists of a large ethnic and economic diverse population. One day a grandmother greeted me with verbal confrontation and anger in her eyes. Her resentment for having to raise her grandson was apparent. I maintained my professional courtesy with a gentle smile, and explained her grandson was either in the lunchroom or on the playground. She made it clear to me that she should not have to find him and I was going to make them late for an appointment. I apologized for not being able to leave the office, and suggested next time she call in advance, so I could have him ready to go.
“Which way?” she asked.
After she located her grandson, she returned to the office. Her tired body language and the gruff tone of her voice had not changed, but the words carried a different message. “I owe you an apology. You were trying to be helpful, and I was rude to you. I’m sorry. And thanks for your smile,” she said. For a moment our lives shared something in common, a smile.
As for the man on the bus, he told me his wife had recently passed away from cancer, and the birth of my son made him smile again. The power of a smile warms my heart.
If it is only for the length of a smile, your day will be better than it was without. This I believe.
And my son, he has an awesome smile.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.