“What sunshine is to flowers, smiles are to humanity.”
– Joseph Addison
Our sixth grandchild was born in March. A perfect little girl with 10 fingers, 10 toes and bright eyes that follow sound and movement. I was lucky enough to hold her shortly after her birth and say prayers of thanks for her healthy arrival.
Five weeks later, little Greer Elizabeth took her first plane ride from her home in the Midwest to Southwest Florida for a visit, and for six days she was (mostly) mine…except for the feedings and interrupted sleep that I happily passed along to her mother. Clearly five weeks is a long time in the life of a newborn, and the changes from our first acquaintance to her Florida arrival were distinct. She’d packed on a few ounces, lost a bit of downy, brown hair, and learned to smile.
Confession: I am a “baby” person. I like the infant stage when you wrap them up in a blanket and rock them until one of you falls asleep. I like laying a baby down in one place, knowing they will still be there when I return from a two-minute trip to the kitchen. And I appreciate that a newborn has not yet figured out that grandma follows the rules laid out by said-baby’s parents, while grandpa encourages sugar consumption and breaking bedtime…
So, when a baby smiles in my direction, I don’t care if it’s an accident, or a fluke, or the passage of gas, because no matter where it originated, I can’t help but reciprocate. I just have to smile.
That’s the power of a smile. Looking into the eyes of another, with a genuine grin on your face, can make a tense moment tolerable, or shed light on a dark day. A smile speaks compassion, understanding, empathy, and agreement. A simple smile greets otherswith “hello” and “good-bye,” acknowledges attraction, and conveys love without ever speaking a word. We smile with relief, and sometimes, we smile with regret. But no matter the emotion that draws the smile, it effectively reaches out and taps lightness on others.
In yoga class we sometimes practice an exercise called “Breath of Joy.” It’s a wonderful way to warm up the body and also an effective pathway to calming and focusing the mind. It also breeds infectious smiles. Breath of Joy is three sips of air, drawn in through the nose to completely fill the lungs, synchronized with three broad sweeps of outstretched arms. This action is followed by opening the mouth and releasing a loud “HA!” on the exhale, as you bend into a deep squat. I remember the first time I did Breath of Joy. I felt self-conscious and uncomfortable and questioned its relevance in a yoga practice. But there was no denying the fog-clearing freedom that followed the last, big “ha!” And it made me smile in spite of myself.
Through the power of a smile we have the ability to give a gift to everyone we choose to share it with. We smile love to our family and friends; we smile kindness to a stranger; we smile clemency to those who suffer. And each day, without fail, we should gift ourselves with the same. Just one look at our own reflection with a smile of compassion and generosity; familiar eyes, looking back at a grin of acceptance.
So, just for today, be generous with your smile. Share your gift with another. Spread the sunshine of humanity unexpectedly, and cultivate a garden of color in your wake.
Laurie Kasperbauer is an active Florida Realtor specializing in properties in Naples and Marco Island. Laurie also enjoys the spiritual and physical benefits of yoga practice and instructs both group and private classes.