I am passionate about a myriad of different subjects. This topic is no exception. I’m talking about the art of “learning to smile” and how important it is to teach this to our children. More than ever before, our society is longing and hungering for human interaction in a loving way. We are crying out for acceptance, for approval, for affirmation. We are battered and bruised and full of the wrong kind of pride and rather than adding beauty to life, we fight still more and more and the endless cycle of hatred and bigotry continues. We are full of the satisfaction in knowing we are right, and everyone else is wrong and we are smug. No matter what creed, or philosophy, no matter what political view you may possess, we easily forget:
that every human is lonely
that every human is hurting
most humans have financial, or emotional, or physical difficulties
that every human is fallible
that most humans live with some kind of regret and are plagued by guilt
that humans want to be seen by more than just their outer shell
most human beings think negatively about themselves, they feel ugly, or they feel stupid, or they feel inadequate
So why smile? Why be gracious to a random stranger? Because you too are a human being, and you need to be the difference, you need to shine the light when absolutely no one else will. When you teach this valuable tool to your children, they are little bits of light in the dark, dark world. We just saw the eclipse on Monday. It was gorgeous, it was breathtaking, it was humbling. But what did we learn? That even though the darkness can completely surround the light, the light still shines through and it overcomes the darkness.
I see too often today, parents coddling their children by letting them hide behind them. They say something like “Say hi Billy!” and the child says “no!” or shakes his head or runs away. The parent lets the issue go. It may be a seemingly small thing, but what the child is being taught is
- It’s perfectly fine to be selfish and self absorbed, no one else matters, their feelings don’t count
- You don’t have to go outside of your comfort zones or do hard things, and learn valuable social skills
- That it is okay to be rude
Teach your children well
We must teach our children to smile, look someone in the eyes, shake their hand and say “It’s nice to meet you.” Or “thank you so much” Or “The dinner was delicious”. Teach them to smile to perfect strangers, to pick up something for someone when they drop it with a smile and a “here you go”. Teach them to hold doors open for people, to grab something that someone in a shopping motorized wheelchair can’t reach. Teach them to smile at the cashier and ask how their day is.Teach them to be patient with slow drivers or slow walkers (my own personal struggle, I’ll admit) Teach them to say hello to someone walking their dogs as they walk by your house. Teach them to give little gifts that say “I was thinking of you”, or “thank you for all you do”. Teach them to wave. Tell them how important it is to brighten people’s day with a smile.
(Now what I’m not saying is: force them to be affectionate. Never should they be forced to hug or be affectionate with a random stranger or even someone they feel uncomfortable with.)
It starts with you
Put your phone down and look at people when they are speaking to you. Put your phone down even if you are in a dentist’s office and everyone else is staring at their phone. Put your phone down when you are at the park and encourage another mom by letting her know that you know all too well about her exhaustion and to hang in there! Put your phone down and say hi to an elderly man in the grocery store who probably hasn’t spoken to another living soul in over a week. Put your phone down when you are taking public transportation and speak to the woman who has just come here from another homeland and is scared to death, she is overwhelmed by a new country. Invite her and her family over for dinner and make a new friendship. Put your phone down when your grandmother is telling you the same story you’ve heard so many times and treasure these fleeting moments.
Hug people who are mourning and cry with them. Pray with them right then and there when they tell you of their hardships. Drop flowers or special surprises on people’s doorsteps “just because”. Greet your own children with a smile and give them your attention so that they can return the favor. Listen to their silly little stories that may feel like they are of no consequence. Listen to your spouse and concentrate on their words, their passions and when they’re telling you about their day.Celebrate your family’s victories and be a shoulder that they can cry on. Teach them what it means to nurture by being a nurturing person. It doesn’t matter what some test on the internet told you about your personality, it doesn’t matter if you are an introvert or shy, you are still a human being and that should never be an excuse.
And sure, it starts off small, by shaking someone’s hand and looking them in the eyes and smiling, but you’ve taught your child what it is to have compassion, to have empathy, to treasure human life and genuinely love people.
Just another caring mother,