She looked up with those beautiful dark eyes as she stood in her tattered pink dress alongside the rubble of her home. A fire caused by a candle had consumed the makeshift shelter and the only home the family had known along with their livelihood, which consisted of a single loom. The fear and hopelessness shown through her eyes as she stared at our foreign pale skin searching for anything familiar. As her glance slowly reached my own, a connection formed which only a smile can create.
This past spring, I stepped outside my comfort zone for the first time. How I ended up in Guatemala for two weeks remains a mystery to me. I was talking with a friend one day, and the next, I am flying to Central America. My first stamp in my passport marked my transition into a better understanding of life.
Words cannot do justice for what I experienced. The beauty of God’s earth and the anguish of these people amazed me beyond measure. The pain of hunger and disease, the fear of even naming a newborn before he reaches six months. When we arrived I was overwhelmed, what could I offer those who seem without hope?
I soon came to realize that I did have something to give through a small gesture. There were eight of us who went to help provide medical treatment in the area. We gave vitamins, skin creams, and medicines communicating in broken Spanish, or with motions when in villages speaking only isolated dialects. But our greatest accomplishment was the gift of hope which came packaged in a simple smile.
I believe God created us with lips to communicate, not just with words
of a common understanding, but in a way of love and kinship which requires no syllables and unites us with each other through our universal humanity. A true smile cannot be faked, the emotion beneath this gesture must be genuine. A true smile is not simply the curvature of the mouth, it envelopes the entire face from the cheek bones to the eyes. A true smile shows the appreciation we have for our fellow man which transcends race, gender, and even social class.
This was how I connected with those who lived in a place so apart from my own corner of the world. We saw many people in the twelve days we spent in Guatemala, but I will never forget that little girl. We exchanged hope in this one small act; I offered hope that someone cared, and I received hope that I might impact others in this same way.
I brought this philosophy home with me because I realized that no matter where we are– at home, work, or just walking down the street, a smile connects us to each other. You never know when that effortless gesture may brighten someone’s life. So each day I take a chance and smile, because it could be the difference I make in the world.
This I believe.
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