'A smile is transformative'. Those were the words I read on the page.
I will admit that most of the time when I say that I am reading, what I am actually doing is skimming. My eyes move diagonally across the page from the top left corner to the bottom right fairly quickly looking for the words that move the article, the story or the essay forward. Rarely am I moved to actually specifically read every single word on every single page. I pick up enough of the topic to get the jist of what the author is trying to say and I move on.
If what I am "reading' turns out to be more interesting than I anticipated, I might go back to skim again, more slowly, seeking that answers to any questions I am mentally asking. Or if it's something truly outrageous, I will re-read to be certain that I actually read what I thought I read before shaking my head at the absurdity of it all before continuing.
When it's really quality writing, oh yes, then I am not only reading every word, sometimes I stop and savour the words, marveling at the perfection of the construction of the sentence. It could be the deliciousness of the authors word choice or maybe it is just a beautifully captivated scene. Maybe it is just a rollicking good tale that deserves to be properly read rather than skimmed. Or it's information that it so specific and important that I absolutely must squeeze every bit of knowledge from what little is on the page. But sadly, those are the exceptions rather than that rule.
Which is why I was so surprised when that one sentence jumped out at me. "A smile is transformative". Wow! That's a pretty big statement.
I'm not sure how I ran across that particular article. It was by the Dominican Sisters of Peace. I remember that part. And I was so captured by that one sentence that I wrote it down to consider later.
It's true of course. Every dentist in the world will tell you that. It's why people are willing to go into debt to have cosmetic dental surgeries or even braces. But I"m pretty sure the good Sisters weren't talking about dental work.
So I thought I would do a little experiment. I stood in front of the mirror in our entryway and took two selfies. One not smiling, the other smiling. Literally one photo immediately after the other. It's not even a big smile. Just the littiest, teeniest, tiniest hint of a smile on my part. Very little actual effort involved. And yes. I look completely different.
The non-smiley face isn't an angry face, although perhaps it could be construed that way. It was just a non-smiling face. I look older when I'm not smiling. I look tired and, if not angry then at least not happy. Yikes! Kind of a scary face. If someone I didn't know gave me that look, I would wonder what I did wrong.
According to the Dominican Sisters, A smile not only changes how people perceive us, it also changes how we feel about ourselves and how we view others. Wow! that pretty powerful for something so very simple.
And while I am, just by nature, a smiley person, I know that not everyone is. Thought sometimes it feels like some folks go out of their way to be NOT happy. Which is very sad. I just cannot imagine going through my life intentionally being unhappy.
I witnessed this recently and then saw the positive and transformative results of a smile myself just the other day.
I was at the grocery store and it appeared that I chose the day of Old Lady Olympics. Very seriously, 95% of the customers at the store were elderly ladies, each armed with a large purse, a grocery cart and a very bad attitude. They were crashing into people, grumping about everything and everyone in the store, and being as obnoxious as humanly possible. I watched one lady clip a display in the produce section with her cart. When the fruit began to tumble down she marched THROUGH the mess on the floor squashing and kicking things out of her way and complaining about the display. Right. It was the displays fault.
They blocked people from going down aisles, rushed to beat each other out of being "first" at the bakery and deli counters, complained about everything and everyone and barged ahead of anyone not bold enough to stop them in the check out line. These are also the ladies who ALWAYS abandon their carts willy nilly in the parking lot and cannot park properly between the lines to begin with.
So I took a deep breath and decided to shop Zen. I wasn't on the clock. There was no particular rush. No other place I needed to be just then. Hey, I just want to get the stuff on my list ok? "Have mercy please", was my thought and I headed up my first aisle. I allowed them to go ahead of me, I patiently waited while I was blocked and picked up the fruit that fell to the floor. About three quarters of the way through the task, all the while thinking to myself, "You are almost done, you are almost done" I came to a complete halt while a woman was harranging her shopping companion. I have no idea what the argument was about, I really don't care. It was none of my business.
What was my business and that of everyone else trying to shop, was that while this private conversation was loudly going on in a very public place, they were completely blocking not only the aisle but everyone's access to anything on the shelves in that section. And the mouthy lady wasn't moving for anyone. No amount of "excuse me's" or "pardon me's" were helping to move her out of our way.
And so there we all stood, waiting for the show to be over. At some point, the person being yelled at noticed me. I smiled sympathetically and kind of nodded as if to say, "Yeah, I know, it's not your fault. Don't worry about it". She smiled back. Just a tiny smile but definitely there and shifted her position just a wee bit. The yeller, startled at the movement, actually stopped yelling for a moment, and looked around. She saw the tail end of my smile and frowned at me. Which cracked me up and I smiled even bigger at her.
I could see her body visibly relax. She stepped back out of the way and allowed everyone to get what they were trying to reach and then carriage on by. As I passed her I said, "Yeah, we all have bad days. Hope it gets better". She starred at me very hard for a moment and then slowly, very slowly, she smiled back. Taadaa!
It was like magic.
I'm not going to say that it works every single time. But it worked that time.
Did you know that there are other countries where people don't walk around smiling all the time as most of us do? It's true. It doesn't mean that they are unhappy or angry people, it's just not part of their culture to smile in public. And when they visit the U.S. they are surprised and more than a little uncomfortable (at least at first) at how we "walk around smiling like lunatics all the time" (that is a direct quote from one of them). HAH! I would not do well in those countries I suspect.
Meanwhile, I've made a mental note of which afternoon to NOT grocery shop unless it's absolutely necessary. And if it so happens that I do end up shopping on another one of "Those" days, at least I know that I am armed with my very best weapon. My smile.
Yup, this is me. Some people said, "Sam, you should write a Blog". "Well, there's a thought", I thought to myself. And so here it is.