I am told that the muscles of the face are capable of over 250,000 different combinations of expressions. And one of the most useful is a smile. And though I’m a fan of kissing, I appreciate that smiling is still one of the best things I can do with my lips.
Sometimes I hear or read something that is so true I know I will never forget it. One of those gems is an observation from Fulton J. Sheen, who said, “A smile across the aisle of a bus in the morning could save a suicide later in the day.” Over the years, I’ve come to realize the magnitude and truth in that statement. People NEED the healing medicine of the heart that just a smile, even from strangers, provides. In fact, we all need it. And for some folks, that medicine can save a life.
One psychiatrist puts it like this. Dr. Thomas Malone, of Atlanta, Georgia, says, “In my practice at the Atlanta Psychiatric Clinic, people sometimes ask me what psychiatry is all about. To me, the answer is increasingly clear. Almost every emotional problem can be summed up in one particular bit of behavior — it’s a person walking around screaming, `For God’s sake, love me!’ Love me, that’s all. He goes through a million different manipulations to get somebody to love him.” (Thanks to Dr. James Moore for the quote.)
I think he says something I need to hear. He is saying that at the core of our being is a need for someone to care. And if that itch is not scratched, we go to great lengths to satisfy it.
But I’ve noticed something else, too. It appears to me that some of the healthiest people around seem to spend less time trying to scratch an itch to be loved, and more time looking for people to reach out to. These are the ones who are most likely to smile across the aisle of a bus. They understand that everyone is fighting some kind of battle, even if they hide it well. And if they were to express their personal life mission, it might include something like, “I try to always love the people I encounter along life’s path.”
They never say they can’t make a difference. They never say they have nothing to contribute. They always know that, even if they have nothing else, they can always give a smile, spontaneously and sincerely. A smile may not seem like much, but it can be a warm blanket on a cold night. And for a while, anyway, it can soothe the itch to be loved.
My smile may not save a life, but it might save a day. And if not, it’s still one of the best things I can do with my lips.
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