There is a park alongside the river that is a convenient place for me to stop on the way home from work. While traffic hums by, there are trails winding through patches of woods, greenspace and the river itself that makes it ideal for jogging (or in my case lumbering). Just the other day as I was huffing and puffing and wondering if I was burning enough calories for a well-deserved desert, I noticed that most everyone I met along the trail was smiling at me. Some smiles are suspicious; other smiles have a hint of ridicule. But these smiles seemed genuine, happy. “Gee, there sure are a lot of nice people around here.” Everyone knows that joggers usually do not smile.
And then it occurred to me: I was wearing my “smiley” shirt, but not just any smiley shirt. This shirt had the mud-splattered smiley face inspired by the fictionalized account from the movie “Forrest Gump.” They are smiling at me, but more specifically they are smiling at my shirt. I attempted to live up to my good natured shirt and smile back!
Living up to the smile. Sometimes smiles are fake, and most of us know one when we see one. Sometimes smiles are just a feeble attempt to cover up melancholy. I never like it when someone tells me, “Smile!” especially when I just do not feel like smiling.
Yet there are times when I think we are far too guarded with our smiles, as if a smile makes us vulnerable or appear weak or indolent. It is true that I sometimes smile a bit too enthusiastically for photos, but more often than I want to admit my face reflects selfish distractions.
I love to be around smiles that come freely and generously. I love to see smiles because something is silly and it is okay to enjoy the moment. I love it when someone greets me with a smile, simply because they are happy to see me.
In a world deafened by traffic noises, acerbic political discourse, and mean-spirited exchanges, we need more smiles of kindness. Paul writes: Be kind and compassionate to one another (Ephesians 4:32) and more simply, Love is kind (1 Corinthians 13). There is just too much meanness in the world, and worse, too many of us who tolerate it, as if we endorse such surliness, by calling it “righteous indignation.” Our face often publicizes what is going on in our hearts.
May God grace you with something that will bring a smile to your face.
May you find time to reflect on loved ones and let your smile show.
May you, for no particular reason, smile at someone else and by doing so, open up a window of kindness to another.