Despite It All, Keep Smiling
What do you want for Christmas?
“Just a smile,” my Dad would always answer. I knew he meant it and I always made good on the ask. Now, being a Mom, that’s so often all I want from my kids. It’s often what I want most from most everyone.
I just read a Facebook comment about “fake smiles.” It reminded me of debates I used to have with an “ex” about smiling. He was determined not to smile unless he felt happy; that was the only way he thought it genuine. His refusal to return my smile sometimes had me feeling lonely, alone. My point was, the smile wasn’t really for him — it’s something to give. I want to talk more about that.
I’ve certainly withheld smiles, been glum beyond seeing past myself, and have extended more than my fair share of glares, but most often, especially in recent years, I’m ready with a smile for anyone. It doesn’t necessarily mean, “look I’m happy I’m smiling,” (although my friends may recognize that forced expression I slap on for Zoom). A smile can be many things, but at its root, I see it as extending warmth, appreciation, acknowledgement — a gift; a gift free to give and always accessible.
I remember countless smiles that put me at ease, uplifted me, reassured me of shared humanity, even lit hope. And I’m pretty sure that some smiles I’ve shared have done the same for others. Even in throws of metaphysical crisis or pain, even when crying, I smile to show loved ones they are loved, even if I’m not feeling it so much for myself.
I’ve carried this lesson of smiles as a gift from my earliest of ages and, to some extent, it has always informed my interactions with people. I perceive nothing fake in the upturn of lips and eye-glint shared, even from a place of despair. It’s courage. It acknowledges that we share this experience and you want more for the other.
Given my gene pool, I won’t count on always having all of my teeth. But I hope I never grow so self-conscious to guard my goofy, open-mouthed, loud smile. I want to generously smile on everyone who I wish to have a better day, which is everyone. And I hope folks passing me, loves I may live with, friends – share smiles freely. I promise not to assume that this means they’re well, but just that they care.