The Power of a Smile

Lynne - Albany, New York
Entered on April 30, 2008
Age Group: 50 - 65
  • Listen to This I Believe on RadioPublic

  • Podcasts

    Sign up for our free, weekly podcast of featured essays. You can download recent episodes individually, or subscribe to automatically receive each podcast. Learn more.

  • FAQ

    Frequently asked questions about the This I Believe project, educational opportunities and more...

  • Top Essays USB Drive

    This USB drive contains 100 of the top This I Believe audio broadcasts of the last ten years, plus some favorites from Edward R. Murrow's radio series of the 1950s. It's perfect for personal or classroom use! Click here to learn more.

The power of a smile

I was riding the train to work in Manhattan this morning, looking out of the window. At a construction site, I smiled at the workers and one of them, an attractive fellow, maybe 10 to 15 years younger than me – winked at me and I thought “cool.” It made me feel very young even though I will turn 65 in a week.

It’s easy to smile at the fun things. I smile at my husband when I think of the 41 years we have shared together, at my 2 grandchildren, and at my artistic endeavors. But sometimes when I am feeling down or upset, it is hard to smile. Yet when I do, I find it makes all the difference.

Sometime, maybe a decade ago, I started to smile at myself in just about every mirror I passed. Even though sometimes it was hard to do, I found that when I did I felt better. And the bonus: my face looks a whole lot younger when I smile. The wrinkles from my mouth to my chin go up instead of down. My eyes sparkle, even in the yucky bathroom at work that has that sort of green overtone… How much better than looking at a frowning me and concentrating on my flaws or current struggles.

I often say to my coworkers when they are going thru particularly difficult times: “Just remember to smile at yourself in the mirror.” It sounds so silly, yet it makes all the difference.”

When I think back over my 65 years, the things I have witnessed and done, all the people I have known and loved, the people I have struggled against over the years and then forgiven, I realize that the one thing that triumphs over all of this is that voice in my head, that person who I smile at in the mirror every time I walk by.

Last week, as I was dealing with the piles of paperwork that arrives at the house when you turn 65 telling you that you are turning 65 (just in case you might have forgotten!) – a definite reminder of my mortality – I thought when I die what do I want at my funeral? I want to have music – Bach’s Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring – played; I want to have the 23rd psalm read because those words sustained me during the time after 9/11 in Manhattan. And I want everyone who comes to my funeral to be given a little mirror and told that my greatest wish is that they smile in a mirror, every day.

Because the person who is smiling back at you is indeed your best friend and your greatest support. There is truly amazing power in a smile that doesn’t cost a cent. This I believe.