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The Power of a Smile

Sometimes a smile can change the course of a difficult moment, instantly. The power of a well-timed grin can turn an angry person around. It can buoy a sad person’s spirits, and it can infuse a surprising lilt into the energy of someone who isn’t expecting it. A smile can indicate the good mood of the wearer, and sometimes it’s also extended as a gentle invitation to spin toward the positive. It’s probably worth mentioning that a smile can also be viewed as fake, disingenuous, or some kind of tactical move to persuade us of one thing or another, but that probably speaks more about the mindset of the person seeing it that way, doesn’t it?! I know that a genuine smile, in a place where I am not expecting it, will make me feel inner warmth every single time. It’s engaging.

It helps out at home, too. A few years ago, when my kids were at the height of flexing their inner critic (teenagers, am I right?), they often expressed feeling like I was mad a lot of the time. I protested, because I didn’t feel mad at all, but their perception weighed on me when I couldn’t change their minds–it became a thing. Eventually, I began making an exaggerated effort to bring joyful energy when any of them came in or out of the house, and it took some time, but I could see and feel their tension soften when I gave it a little extra attention. I made an effort to break through their obvious annoyance and mistrust, helping us all move into something much more solid. I’m grateful for the lesson: When I didn’t persist in telling them they were wrong, and instead made a simple adjustment within myself, I opened the perception of what could be, not what was locked in as truth.

Now that Fred and I are living alone with our dog, I try to keep that same smiley energy when he comes and goes. I can tell a noticeable difference in his demeanor if I forget to bring it like I mean it because I am distracted by something I’m doing. I’m not sure his mind notices when I don’t, but his body language reacts accordingly every time. The difference feels minimal within me, but has a definite impact on how my words land on him. I’ve been told I have one of those smiles that can’t be trusted until you come to know me. It’s fairly earned, because sarcasm and friendly mischief have often been my stock and trade. At the same time, my greatest resources lie in my enduring friendships. First with myself, and then with all of the people I have been lucky enough to get to know along my journey. I’m talking about some seriously amazing people who have made me a better person through our experiences!

Being a resource is valuable to me (to most of us, I think), but I don’t always get to choose when and how that happens. I find that there are times when my words or actions have served as a resource in a way that I hadn’t anticipated or imagined, and it always feels fantastic if you can find a way to appreciate it, not diminish it. Just last week, a friend reminded me of something I told them years ago that made it easy for them to make a move they were nervous about making. I could barely remember saying it, but I could definitely recall her turmoil around the choice. Whatever advice I gave her back then had little to do with me, and everything to do with what she needed to bring in to boost her own confidence. Universal resources tend to work that way – showing up exactly when we need them without significant effort.

In the same vein, the things that we are really good at are often overlooked and discounted when we are taking stock of ourselves. There is a simple explanation for this: we’ve been conditioned to reason that when something comes easily, it doesn’t seem very valuable. This thinking is practically hard wired, yes, but it’s also deeply flawed. No matter who we are or where we come from, we have a skill (probably multiple) that exists as a natural part of who we are, and it is (or would be) valuable to the people around us. If you can’t see it in yourself, start paying attention to what people thank you for, or comment about when referring to you. This is the sweet spot for discovering your own inner gifts and how to offer them freely as a resource to those around you. It’s also the best space to hear constructive criticism, if there is one!

Giving and receiving seem like such natural efforts, but as humans we often struggle to do one or the other. I know a guy who would give you the shirt off his back and anything else that you might need, but it’s very challenging for him to receive things from others. He’s said that it embarrasses him because he’s successful and doesn’t need anything so he’d rather see gifts go to people in need. As the Rolling Stones point out, “you can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need…” This played out for him in one fell swoop when a freak accident sidelined him and he found himself recovering from hip surgery, unable to fully care for himself and needing to rely on the resources of the people around him (in resource week I must add!). Of course, he had more people willing to help than things to help with, but it was a cool moment for people to participate in the exchange of resources that he gives so freely, and I think he pulled a lot of value from the experience.

In life, we all need something every so often and it’s nice when we receive instant support. A few years ago, when I was still trying to convince myself this stuff is real, I had a cabinet drawer break off in my hand. Minutes later, a friend with a woodworking shop just happened to stop by unexpectedly. Left in my care alone, the drawer might still be broken today, but he took it and had it back to me within an hour. And that kind of shit happens to me all the time. Especially since I started thinking not just about my immediate world, but the larger energetic environment that we all connect through. That sits at the root of all of our interactions and the reason why people like my ‘hip’ friend go against the grain, moved by gratitude, not greed.

A lot of humans find it hard to willingly part with what belongs to them, but that is where and why our differences are so powerful. Money, time, effort, and attention are all things we can spend with and for others, that come with a cost. Laughter, tears, hugs and smiles are all ways we can give without needing to spend much, but we often reserve them for people who ‘deserve’ to receive them. It is often the people who aren’t ‘deserving’ of extra resources who will gain the most value from receiving them (and who need them the most). Our kindness, in the right circumstances, can move mountains, so investing in ways to know better and do better is a positive effort for everyone, if you’re into that kind of thing.

It might be because we spent the last few years with our faces covered in public, but I find smiling to be a great resource in helping me connect with others while I’m out and about in the world. We can never know how most of what we do affects others, but we can know what it feels like to extend resources where we can. Of course there are opportunists only seeking to gain, but when we give them the power to affect our generosity, we are limiting our ability to manifest the things we want. Learn to trust your own inner voice and give freely when you feel moved to do so. You will be spreading the gift of giving easily and naturally for the rest of your life, acting as a valuable resource in your own environment.



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