Friday, April 16, 2010

Genuine Smiles

At four years old, he sat in my lap, twisted his head to the side and asked, “Grandma Cathy, are you in misery?” I suppose my face must have hinted at my melancholy. My husband had just phoned and said he’d hit two cows in his Peterbilt, so I’d sat down to plan my phone calls to begin straightening out the mess and his fenders. That’s when miniature psychologist Jack had climbed into my lap and summed up the moment.

Our face topography often maps our moods. Sometimes face etchings only reveal the mood of the moment, but often the lines detail the history of smile-visits or frown-visits.

I didn’t do the counting, but here are some smile statistics. The average woman smiles about 62 times a day, while men smile and add to their crows feet on the average of 8 times a day.

Women, don’t get smug, yet. When it comes to outright laughing, males and females lag behind the youngsters. Each of us laugh only 15 times in 24 hours while a child will giggle, snigger, and chuckle his way through a day to the merry number of 400.

Want to know about smile power? Look back at your high school yearbook pictures. A study has shown that if you smiled in the photo, then you are more likely to have a successful career and marriage.

I’ve found that smiles are more difficult to produce when I’m on a tight schedule. We are a society in the passing lane. We pass co-workers in corridors. We pass family going in and out of our homes. We pass fellow Christians in the church building aisles. And we pass a myriad of unknown people while shopping or driving. If you are up for an experiment, take time to notice people’s faces. Don’t stare, but glance up and smile at those who pass by. Watch for responses.

I’ve been face watching lately. Here are my results. Most are too busy with their current mission to even acknowledge another’s presence. They simply pass by and get on their way. Others will nod or in some way let people know they are aware of them. And then there are those people who take the time to smile, increasing the array of crinkles around their eyes. Simply beautiful.

Karen McLendon-Laumann captured the essence of how grins are caught: “Smiling is infectious, you catch it like the flu. When someone smiled at me today, I started smiling too."

Dale Carnege says, “The expression one wears on one’s face is far more important than the clothes one wears on one’s back.” The smile is powerful and universal. A smile isn’t border-bound. A smile speaks any language.

Smiles also offer a cordial greeting to the uncomfortable. Paula’s husband died suddenly last August. Yet, as friends and family gathered to say goodbye to Lee Roy, Paula’s gracious smile warmed our hearts. Even in the throes of mourning, she chose to help friends and family. She chose to offer us encouragement through her genuine smile.

A smile indicates an embrace of life. Even though a day’s activities may not be ideal, a shared smile indicates an enthusiasm for a better day. And that may be all fallen-countenance-folk need is for someone to offer hope through their smile.

This week, bestow smiles and reflect God’s grace to your contacts. And if you’ve memorized the following age-old-blessing, further God’s favor by praying silently over the people you pass: “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you, the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace” (Numbers 6:24-26).


  1. Thanks so much. I really needed this reminder!


  2. You are welcome. My face also needs the reminder to "shine" out at others, too.

  3. I KNEW there was a good reason I love to laugh and watch a good comedy movie or tv show. They are rare but good to find. Your grandson was so sweet to ask if you were in misery. Children who can giggle all day are truly blessed.

  4. Terra, another thing I've noticed about kids--giggles are usually accompanied by hops, skips, jumps, wiggles or bounces. Now if only adults could combine the two, we'd be happier and slimmer.