“Let us always meet each other with smile, for the smile is the beginning of love."
“Every time you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing.”
"Peace begins with a smile."
Driving home from getting my back cracked on Monday, I found myself to be ultra-attentive to the people in the cars around me. I don't really know why, as I pass hundreds, if not thousands of people on the roads everyday without a second thought (that sounds kind of sad to me for some reason). But for some reason, I was feeling observant and connected to the people around me. I sat at a red light and looked at the middle-aged man sitting in his truck next to me. He look stressed or annoyed at something, but as I thought more about it (and creepily stared at him) it appeared his face might have just been in a permanent scowl/frown. How does that happen? Was he born frowning, or has his face and its many muscles trained themselves over time, due to his general disposition, to rest in the frown position? I started thinking about myself, trying to casually glance at myself in the rearview mirror to see what my 'resting face' looked like. (This obviously did not work, as I just 'happened' to be smiling from ear to ear.) I remember being in high school and thinking about this same phenomenon, that some people seem to always be smiling or grinning, and others seem to be caught in a perpetual frown. An influential teacher and minister in my life when I was in high school had pronounced lines on the sides of her eyes. I now know they are called 'crow's feet', but at the time, I thought of them as smile lines. It was as though she was always taking in the wonder around her (I was usually with her in the context of prayer and retreat experiences) with an open heart and a sense of awe and gratitude. When I reached 'middle age', I wanted to have smile lines, too, and hoped to greet the world with awe, wonder and gratitude.
I've been obsessing about this idea of smiling since the yoga teacher meditated and challenged me on it last week. Like, when I am pushing myself on a run and feeling the burn in my lungs, to smile... and give a spot of thanks for the ability to run. When the driver (I thought was letting my into his lane and gave him a wave out the window) gives me a 'thumbs down' sign (at least it wasn't another hand gesture...), I smile and hope to soften the tension between us. Actually, I laughed out loud. Ooops. Or when I encounter someone who seems stuck in a perpetual scowl, to affirm them and try to give them reason to smile. One of my colleagues shared this youtube video with our department last Christmas. (the next time you have 15 minutes, you must watch this... and invite people to watch with you! Seriously, it seems a little goofy in the beginning but it is AMAZING!) It has become one of my favorite resources in the classroom, and even inspired a collaboration between my seniors and a freshman class to, together, wallpaper our lockers at school with notes of affirmation and beauty. It makes me smile just thinking about it. What if I made it a point to greet every morning with a smile? It's easy in these summer months when my schedule and workload is a bit more flexible and low key.... but as the school year commences, I hope to celebrate with a smile. But maybe the greatest challenge is to maintain that smile, or at least appreciation, as the day goes (or drags) on. In the Happiness Project, one of the questions she considered focused on whether some people are just intrinsically happier than others or is it a conscious choice in how people react to situations in their life? There are various arguments and viewpoints on either end, as well as many who think it is a combination of both. What I've found true in my own life is that there are many things outside of my control, but one thing within my control is how I react to situations. It's often a battle against my emotions, and it can be challenging, but being mindful, prayerful, reflective and intentional can allow us (or at least me) to choose how we react. It takes time, to step back from situations, even if it just taking a deep breath after the guy gave me a thumbs down on the road, instead of reacting with frustration or annoyance, and laughing at the situation and his funny gesture. Honestly, it makes me feel better to laugh or smile than to complain and fill myself with tension and frustration. So, smile smile smile! (you'll find that song sticks in your head after you watch the video... or maybe it's just after watching it a million times like I have)!
Or, you could take W.C. Fields' approach: Start every day with a smile and get it over with.
I don't suggest it, though :)