Smile, my friend, because when you do you’ll change the world.
Perhaps you don’t believe me, and that’s fair, but remember that a smile is never just a smile. At least not the sincere ones. And the one I so often see spread across your face is as sincere as they come.
Your smile is a window into your soul. It’s a window with a breathtaking view – because our souls are indeed breathtaking – and never have I ever looked out upon a beautiful view and turned away unmoved. So you see, you’re already changing me.
But like most things that have great value, a beautiful view is often difficult to get. It takes work to reach a good enough vantage point. It takes commitment. That’s a word we like to shy away from, isn’t it? I think our souls know our reticence and that’s why they use a smile. Like a friend who calls out from the mountain top to let us know just how beautiful the view really is, the soul uses a smile to entice us to commit and seek out that vantage point, to look through the window and into another person’s soul. How can I see a smile and not engage it? It’s too beautiful, too intriguing not to ask myself what’s behind it. And once I’ve asked that question and committed to seeking the answer I reach the metaphorical mountaintop and see the view, your soul, exposed, revealing what makes you so uniquely you.
And that’s a powerful thing.
Your smile shows me what gives your soul joy, like the one that creeps across your face as you don your flowing skirt and let the sound of the drum and the Marimba take hold of your body. As your smile grows with the tempo of the beat it draws me in more and more and as I engage your smile deeper and learn more about it I begin to understand that you don’t smile simply because of the beat and the shuffle of your feet but because of the pride in who you are that those things stir up in you.
You smile for the pride you feel in singing your ancestors’ songs, for the pride you feel in your own skin. Your smile reveals your pure, unadulterated joy in being you, and as you smile about that you invite me to smile alongside you. After all, smiles are contagious! You make me a co-conspirator in your joy, your pride, your story, and as you smile it fills me with so much joy because I love you, not because of anything you’ve done but simply because you are you and deserve it no matter what. My love for you and for your smile makes me want to never see it leave your face so I join your fight to make your world a better place, to help protect your beautiful smile.
So keep smiling, my friend, because just like that you’re changing me even more.
Now that your smile has pulled me into your world and I begin to seek it out even more, I can’t help but take note of the times it’s absent. Those times when your lips have no curl and your teeth remain hidden, those times when your soul feels no joy but instead feels an acute pain.
Like when you tell me stories of how the very thing that can fill you with so much pride, the color of your skin, is used against you. A terrible twist in the story of a broken world.
There’s the story of the authorities who deny you the resources you need to educate your children. Authorities who tell you to go back to your farms and to leave them in peace. Authorities who tell you that your child won’t learn how to read anyway. Authorities who steal and embezzle your community’s future.
The story of the employers who deny you a fair wage for equal work and even worse, the employers who deny you the work altogether.
The story of the slurs, the comments, and the dirty looks that weigh you down day after day.
But smile, my friend, because the bright and radiant light that shines when you do helps me be even more aware of the darkness of the night when you don’t. Just as your smile invites me to share in your joy the absence of it invites me to share in your pain, the important part of relationship we unfortunately often neglect to do.
So smile, my friend, because now I know what gives you joy and I know what gives you pain and as such you’ve change me even more. I now know you. I’ve seen your smile and I’ve looked through it into your soul and because I love you I’ve smiled with you and felt your pain and so you’ve also looked through my smile and into my soul. We’re in this together and we’ll never be the same.
And here’s the best part: I’m not alone. Everyone who reads this will have had a glimpse into your smile and a glimpse into your pain and just as you have changed me you will start to change them. Just as your smile invited me in and enticed me to engage it so it will be for them. And slowly but surely your smile will change us all. We will all smile together at the things that give you joy and we’ll all feel pain together at the things that take it away. With every person who sees your smile the number of co-conspirators will grow and then no injustice that stands against us has a chance.
So smile, my friend, because when you do you’ll change the world.
Do you believe me now?