By Chivalries as tiny,
A Blossom, or a Book,
The seeds of smiles are planted –
Which Blossom in the dark.
(Emily Dickinson)

TOO MANY OF US HAVE FROZEN FACES. We’ve been in the long, cold battle against life’s difficulty for so long that our demeanor has grown hard. We need to unfreeze our faces and smile.

In one sense, a smile is such an easy gift to give, it’s a wonder we don’t give it to others more often. And yet, in a deeper sense, a smile is not such an easy thing to give. What about those times when we don’t feel like smiling? Can we give the gift even when it’s not easy?

An insincere smile, of course, is one of the most despicable things in the world. If we smile to make someone think that we mean them well, when in reality we wouldn’t be above doing them harm, that’s dishonest. A smile is worse than a frown if it misleads another person into thinking we’re more favorably disposed toward them than we really are. The unctuous smile of an enemy is nothing but a lie.

But choosing to smile in the face of difficulty is not insincere. In fact, it’s a noble form of courage. Even on our darkest days, there are still many things in this world to be thankful for, and when we choose to take the larger perspective, that’s a commendable thing to do.

There are few actions or gestures that communicate any more effectively than a smile. “A warm smile is the universal language of kindness” (William Arthur Ward). Great distances of custom and culture can be bridged by the simple giving of a smile, and we need to build this kind of bridge more often than we do.

But if it’s a good thing to smile, it’s also a good thing to remember the smiles of others. It is strengthening to conjure up the memory of those whose smiling faces have helped us and encouraged us and kept us moving in the right direction. We need to keep all these smiles in the scrapbook of our hearts. There may come a dark day in the future when it seems that hope is out of reach. On that day, it may be very important to get out the scrapbook and remember those who have been our encouragers. Their smiles will help us to hang on.

If we do meet again, why, we shall smile;
If not, why then, this parting was well made.
(William Shakespeare)

Gary Henry — +

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