My dear reader,
Occasionally (spotted on the bumper of a pristine Prius or a 1972 VW bus) I see a sticker that implores: Think globally. Act locally. You’ve seen those, right? Well, today I’m going to help you accomplish the first mission in two seconds flat. All you need to do is this:
Today is World Smile Day. And since it falls on a Friday, we already have plenty of reason to oblige, don’t you think?
Emojis notwithstanding, a genuine smile is one of the natural wonders of the world. It is both utterly unique and profoundly universal. It’s comforting, captivating, convincing, and contagious. A warm smile can truly “light up a room” or “dazzle a crowd” all by itself. It’s a mood-booster and day-brightener. It’s a goodwill offering and a conflict deterrent. On some faces, it’s an everyday event. On others, a rare gift. But either way, it almost always gets great reviews… and great returns.
I am fascinated by the science of smiles. The neurology. The psychology. The endocrinology. All of the incredible -ologies. The way smiles entice and engage others. How they animate our faces and articulate our feelings and elevate our endorphins. And how they almost always elicit smiles in return. The smile is surely the brightest and best feature of every human being who has ever lived. Why?
Because smiles connect us.
Babies typically start smiling when they’re about five or six weeks old. Conveniently, this is just about the time that their parents have become so sleep-deprived, depleted, and desperate that they might be tempted to google “safe drop” locations in their zip code. But thankfully, just before that happens, a miraculous physiological force illuminates a baby’s sweet smile… and all thoughts of great escapes and night nannies vanish. Wow, God, You are BRILLIANT! Parents gaze at those perfect lips and soak up those luscious smiles and – in the words of the inimitable Louis Armstrong – they think to themselves, “What a wonderful world.”
One little smile… and lifelong bonding (and photo sharing) begins.
Smiles garner attention, sell products, win friends. They are capable of gratifying, unifying, consoling, compelling, and crossing cultural barriers. Most smiles are everyday, ordinary “greetings” from one person to another, face to face. Some smiles, though, are captured in memories or on film… and convey something truly extraordinary. The smile of a gold-medal winner. A bride on her wedding day. A cancer survivor. A valedictorian. A movie star. A soldier returning home. A kid on Christmas morning.
Some smiles are recognized worldwide: Julia Roberts and JFK. Elvis and Oprah. The POTUS and the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. (Not even kidding. Will Smith’s smile beams everywhere from Sweden to Switzerland to South Korea.) They’re all, without a doubt, mega-watt, million-dollar (or in Oprah’s case, billion-dollar) smiles.
Other smiles are simply iconic. Princess Diana. Marilyn Monroe. And perhaps the most famous of all…
Smiles enthrall painters and sculptors, enchant photographers and filmmakers… and inspire lyricists and musicians in every genre in every generation. Think of the countless crooners who have sung the praises of a simple smile. Frank Sinatra, Lily Allen, Hall and Oates, Tim McGraw, Drake, Doris Day, Justin Bieber, Barry Manilow, Nat King Cole, and Uncle Kraker, to name a few. And I don’t disagree with their sentiments. When I see a joyful smile on the face of someone I adore, it warms my whole heart. Mine and James Taylor’s too, apparently:
“Whenever I see your smiling face, I have to smile myself… because I love you. Yes I do.”
Back at ya, JT.
But let’s be honest. Some days, smiles are in short supply. Bad weather, bad reviews, bad people, bad news… those can suck the smiles right out of us. And all we’ve got left are downcast faces with forlorn frowns. Sometimes the world just feels too harsh or too heavy to lift those facial muscles… one… iota. I get it. The hurricanes and hate crimes and heartbreak, they take a toll. But that’s why, when I’m able to coax a smile from a pouting preschooler or a dejected friend or a grumpy clerk or a surly teen or a toddler with a skinned knee and a tear-streaked face, I’m tickled pink. I feel absolutely, positively grand. (And maybe a teensy smug.) That reluctant smile is both my goal… and my reward. Boom.
Me? I’m an easy target. If you give me a smile, you’re pretty much guaranteed one in return. Unless you’re my kid, and you’re cheesin’ hard to get outta trouble. Then, not so much. (I’ve perfected a steely glare, complete with clenched jaw and pursed lips for such occasions.) But overall, I’m pretty generous with my smiles. I’ll offer one – unsolicited – to almost anyone, anytime. And I have the laugh lines to prove it. Smiles are immune-boosting, stress-relieving, friendly, and free. And they make us all… beautiful.
I just like to smile. Smiling’s my favorite.
P.S. Smile and the world smiles with you. Especially today. 😉