Long days and nights on the road, 400 miles to one town, 450 miles to the next. Pavement passes in a dizzying hypnotic spell, the miles roll by with such repetitiveness that awareness of one’s whereabouts at times confused and tangled.
Whether it’s the roads or the trees, buildings and especially sign posts, you’ve seen them all before, hundreds even thousands of times. Yet, ahead, as you pull into that driveway, your destination, and you see it; something you’ve seen thousands of times before, but it is never the same: a smile.
As a photographer for so many years people would naturally assume that smiles were my business. Smiles, however, are not always what someone thinks they are. A smile can be in the eyes, in one’s body, and of course on one’s lips. The smile is more than just an expression; it’s a place, a frame of mind.
As a photographer working with people, smiles come in different forms. Of course there is the innocence of the child who hides nothing, who is as happy and gleeful as their smile would indicate. Even as a baby who does not know the meaning of a smile as we do, but knows how to smile and that smile when it spreads its way across a baby’s face and even erupts into into giggling and the arms and legs kicking in glee, which is their way of saying “Something is right…something is good.”
There’s an elderly woman whose teeth have long since worn, broken, what are left are stained, and some would say that she can’t smile a pretty smile; oh, but she can. Her eyes light up, the ends of her mouth turn upward, and her posture straightens; she is smiling and she is smiling beautifully.
From a babe newly brought into this world to the worn body long for this world and every age in between a smile is something that encompasses the whole of the body from head to toe, and has power to do so much. But even better than that, it comes with the territory, us, and it costs nothing to use it, but in some moments it might be the most valuable thing you give to somebody, at least to them.
Do you know that smiling is a very useful tool, for yourself and those you touch in your life?
An old adage is that it takes fewer muscles to smile than it does to frown. Numbers vary by who is counting, but it takes more than twice as many muscles to frown than to smile. This is important when you realize that your energy can be sapped through the day by not smiling. When we smile, some muscles relax, therefore it’s not just a difference in the muscles used to smile or frown, it also eases muscles that normally would bring about stress, and stress lowers our energy so we work harder and feel less productive, rightfully so, when we don’t smile.
But does smiling just have to be around others?
Our lives are filled with moments where we could benefit from smiling. Most of us do smile when we are alone in our private time, but not as much as we can. When working out in the yard, sitting at a computer writing, or doing choirs, whatever we may be doing we can reduce our fatigue and stress by smiling while doing it.
One of the keys to effective speaking is smiling. Confidence improves with a smile. Speaking does not become as much of a task when you are smiling. And especially important is you sound different when you smile; a smile can be heard by another person.
When I was in sales, an important key in training telemarketers and salespeople was getting them to smile. When someone is speaking on the phone and you tell them to smile, and in addition to smiling their posture straightens and they sit up and are more aware; they are stronger and more confident and it pays off for them.
Not only is a smile the expression of something being right and good, it is a tool to make it right. A smile can be from within or from without, either spread by another person or begun by ourselves. We may not have a reason to smile, or feel we don’t, but we can put a smile on our faces and our bodies recognize this and work to reduce stress on an unconscious level, on a physiological level; so don’t feel that a smile has to be justified to use one, it will justify itself.
The power of a smile is amazing. It is well beyond an expression on a face and comes from deep within, and goes deep within; it is part of our entire being.
Being a photographer, I not only got to help people smile, but to capture those moments, and those moments bring smiles to me.
As a writer, maybe I can bring a smile to you. So smile, silly; you’re worth it, aren’t you?