If there is a heaven, it’s currency will most certainly be smiles, and if I’m right, I will arrive in the after-life a truly wealthy woman. I collect smiles like rare and precious gems. It’s my hobby, it’s my religion, it’s what keeps me connected to every person I encounter, friends and strangers, and it energizes me. I have a gene for friendliness that is mutated – it’s my super power, like Batman setting out to rid Gotham of the forces of evil.
I developed my ability to make others smile as a student of the master, my father. As a child, my time with my divorcee-dad was precious, but when we were together, I suffered through meals at diners and sandwich shops where Mad-Man-Stan worked his charms on ladies young and old. I wanted to be invisible during those truly embarrassing moments of what I thought was shameless flirting. Later in life I realized, he might have been trying to get a date many of those times, but he was also indiscriminate about who he targeted with his natural friendliness and teasing. I’ve grown to admire his ability to brighten a stranger’s face with a smile they couldn’t hold back, to get a person to lift their head and make eye-contact, and to cheer-up someone so that they visibly stood taller.
Now, my dad and I are competitively collecting smiles. Neither of us is a silly person, we don’t tell jokes, and won’t do anything for a laugh unless it’s a child. I might make a wisecrack that touches a part of your brain that makes you smile, but most of the smiles we receive are simply a product of paying attention to someone, even for a moment, and being friendly.
I consider the greatest smile in my collection to be the first smile I received from my husband, who, when I met him, was a very serious, unsmiling man. His wasn’t an immediate smile, but I remember the exact time and place when it appeared, and that’s the same moment I feel in love with him. We will forever we disagree about the details of our first meeting as he accuses me of shamelessly flirting with him and I vehemently deny that I was anything more than friendly. But, no matter, it makes him smile even to hear me deny it and I am happy to report that I receive the gift of a smile from him now many times daily.
Collecting smiles has gotten me into and out of trouble throughout my life. Using my friendly gene to seek positive attention got me through the grief and anger of being a child in the middle of my parents horribly broken marriage. It got me though the awkward phases of my adolescence when I had virtually no other social skills. It brought me my own two failed marriages before the age of 30, and helped me survive the aftermath.
In my mid-life, now in a happy marriage of 10 years, I better understand my ability and it’s true power. I have seen it’s refinement, and I am still in awe, and sometimes still embarrassed, watching my father at his advanced age still in action, prying a joyful moment from every man, woman and child he meets on a daily basis.
A smile is a gift you get from someone else, and a smile is what you give back. I believe I have the power to change the world one smile at a time, one person at a time.
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