Keep that smile!

First thing every morning, I look at myself in the mirror and smile. Then I wash my face, brush my teeth, look at the mirror, and smile again. I can feel the smile spread across my face lighting up my eyes. That warms my heart and prepares me for the day ahead. Whatever happens today I will keep my smile.

Is there anything else that can cheer me up instantly? My wife, or course. I concede that her cheerful round face is better looking than mine. But after all these years if I look at her early every morning and smile, she may think I have lost my marbles.

There you go! Smile. It costs you nothing. And let nothing or no one wipe that smile off your face.

One fall evening, I went for a walk. This happened shortly after I landed in Canada. Bright evening sun filtered through the trees. Leaves with the most beautiful colors shivered with excitement. My spirits were up and I felt like walking on thin air.

Before carrying on with the story I have to put certain things into perspective. My friends had warned me of a strange N. American behavior. Apparently, in public places, people avoided eye contact. So when I saw this big man in running gear charging towards me, I wondered. Should I avoid his eyes. Should I greet him?

“Good evening” I mumbled. Either he was running too fast to hear me or he chose to ignore me. The next person was a teenage girl walking her dog. She had a light jacket, dark glasses, and earplugs to keep the world out. She would not hear me anyway. Then a couple walked past me. I wished them. They were too busy arguing with each other.

I completed my walk deep in thought. I could continue going about the world unnoticed. Or, I can make a small difference. I practised my greeting in front of the mirror as pleasantly as possible and as clearly as I could enunciate. All with a bright smile. Whatever their response I decided I would smile and greet them day after day.

By the end of the week they would all smile and greet me back. The runner would slow down, even run around me talking. The girl with the dog did not take off her earplugs, but she smiled and greeted me. The arguing couple would stop bickering the moment they saw me. They both greeted me. It may have taken me seven days, but I changed the world around me one smile at a time.

Let me narrate another story which helps us realize how fortunate we are to lead such healthy lives. In a small village in Northern India, a little girl called Pinki lived with her parents. This six year old girl, when she should be living a normal life and playing without a care in the world, was leading the life of a recluse. She was not allowed to attend school. Day after day, she stood behind the battered wooden door of her house and watched other children play.

What was her crime? She was born with a deep cleft in her upper lip which had disfigured her face. People living in remote and destitute villages accept every misfortune as fate. Whether it is flood, drought, or a deformed child, fate is right there to stake its claim, “Hey, I did that!”

When fate turned its back for a moment, lady luck dropped in. A volunteer from a charity organization called Smile Train was touring the countryside looking to restore the smiles of young children. Smile Train had helped close to half a million children with free cleft lip surgery. After a simple 45 minute procedure, Pinki was introduced to the art of smiling. It completely transformed her life. This is an actual story. It was filmed and the movie Smile Pinki went on to win an Oscar for the best documentary this year. Now that’s the power of a smile!

I am not standing here with my hat in hand. I am not asking you for anything. All I want you to do is smile. When you look at the mirror and smile, remind yourself gently that you can put a smile on someone else’s face; you have the power to transform the life of a child (Smile Pinki) forever.

Smile when you turn in for the night. Think of all the good things you did that day that can make you smile. Even if that is the only thing you are wearing at night, remember to wear your smile.

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