This I Believe

Jenna - Northfield, Minnesota
Entered on April 30, 2006
Age Group: Under 18
Themes: hope
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The Power of a Smile

I believe in the power of a smile. A smile conveys more value than any word can express. Momentary smiles have enriched me with the wisdom of compassion, hope and beauty. Transcending language and culture, smiles have taught me lifelong values that no other form of communication could teach.

In the poverty of Juarez, Mexico, I danced with a young Mexican girl. Our cultures clashed as she taught me one of her favorite dances but our smiles united us. The young girl adorned me in her traditional dresses and grasped my hand as she invited me into her ramshackle house. She spent hours coordinating music and fixing my outfit so we could properly dance together. When she kissed my cheek goodbye, the girl’s compassionate smile challenged me to share kindness with others as she had shared it with me.

In the ghetto of Chicago, I met a man in the REST homeless shelter. He was an old, burly, African American man, quite opposite from myself. At the homeless shelter we exchanged our life stories and praised our love for Christ. Despite his deep hardships, the man carried incredible hope for the future. When he hugged me goodbye, the man’s smile sparkled and encouraged me to have confidence within my own struggles.

In the despair of Biloxi, Mississippi, I sat on the beach with a homeless woman. I shared lunch, a blanket and very few words with her. As we ate, her eyes were focused on the ocean beyond and she whispered with a smile, “isn’t it beautiful?” Her teeth were rotten, her lips were cut, and her gums were stained, but her crooked smile taught me that beauty is amid everything. Some places it is just more difficult to find. When I shook her hand goodbye, her distorted smile conveyed what words could not.

In the affluence of my suburban community, I live with my family, whose smiles continually express similar adoration, hope and beauty as I received from these three diverse people. My family’s smiles are a continual reminder that a simple facial expression carries incredible power. I am inspired by all these people to share enriching values with everyone I encounter. The power of a smile is everywhere; in all parts of the world the smile conveys words that do not exist, a language that cannot be taught, yet everyone is able to understand.