The other day, we were watching a couple of our granddaughters.
Out of the blue, the 4-year-old informed me, “I don’t know why Grandpa, but I love you.”
I smile remembering that. I imagine that you smiled too. It’s cute, unexpected, and maybe it recalls some warm memories in your own life.
The point here is not the story, it’s the smile — one of the oldest human expressions.
Anthropologists believe that the human smile, with its relaxed muscles, parted lips, and exposed teeth, was a sign of peaceful intent, a way of showing another that no harm was intended.
It may have been something we shared with the primates, but our smile has become much more than some superficial sign. It is embedded in our physiology, our emotional makeup, and our spirituality.
It’s the first expression of babies, which says something of importance.
Children smile an average of 40 times an hour. It could be a bottle, a touch or a tickle -- a bug, a treasure or a treat.
It could be gratitude, wonder or surprise. It’s all met with a smile.
As we grow older, we lose those experiences, fail to see the mysteries, and stiffen our attitudes.
As adults, we smile only once per hour.
Life is serious, often hard, sometimes tragic, but the missing smile is impoverishing our life.
A cardiologist recommended that we try to smile 20 times in an hour. That simple act increases production of neuropeptides, which affect the nervous system by reducing stress.
Who knew that smiling could be good for you?
Jesus knew. The Bible says Jesus “wept.” Never does it say he laughed or smiled. But think about it.
Painting absurd images of a camel struggling through a needle’s eye or a log in a person’s eye, he was probably smiling just as much as his listeners.
His comparison of what goes into a person, with what comes out was not without an earthy chuckle.
When he raised Jairus’s daughter from her sleep, he was surely smiling when his first words after the miracle were, “Give her something to eat.”
Our smile is a connection. It makes us more trusting of one another, something we desperately need.
So find things that bring a smile, or just practice that grin once in a while.
As Thich Nhat Hanh said, “Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.”