An (un)broken smile

This past Monday started very early.  Much earlier than I would have liked.  So early in fact that the sun wouldn’t even consider waking from it’s slumber for a couple more hours, and I was already at the airport waiting to catch a flight.  I had a much clearer understanding as to why they called this the “red eye” flight, as I seemed to walk through the airport in a semi-conscious state.  I had spent most of the previous night wrestling with my covers and pillows trying desperately to find the perfect spot to fall asleep.  The spot, along with my precious sleep, would elude me all night long.  I was now supposed to be up and ready to work, but my body was revolting due to the sleep deprivation.   My mind started playing tricks on me.  Every object I passed (garbage can, bench, suitcase, etc.) suddenly transformed in my head into the most comfortable pillow ever made.

I plodded through the check-in process and noticed that the airport itself seemed to share my sleepy state.  What normally would be a bustling hive of activity was quiet and still.  The environment was perfect for the airport employee trying to catch a few last winks while on the clock, but it was not helping build my confidence that I would find the energy to get through the day.

The security checkpoint was as desolate as the rest of the airport, only two people in front of me, a mom and her little girl.  My eyes were so tired and heavy at this point, that I actually pondered lying down on the conveyor belt with the rest of my belongings.  This was definitely going to be the longest day of my life.  I was about to concede defeat even before my day had really begun.

And then suddenly everything changed.  Changed for the better.  The little girl in front of me, who couldn’t have been more than 2 or 3 years old, turned around and did the most amazing thing.  She looked at me and simply smiled.

I don’t know how to explain it but the little girl’s smile was like giant dose of caffeine for my hibernating body.  She only glanced at me for second, but a second was all it took.  I quickly felt an energy tingle in my toes and rapidly spread through my body.  In an instant, I was so unbelievably awake!  It was like I had just jumped in an icy pool, except without the extreme cold or need for me to don a Speedo (sorry for the visual image).  I suddenly felt alive!  I knew that it was going to be a great day!  This little girl was never conscious of her actions or the impact it would have on me, but it made me realize how easily we can make somebody’s day, how very little effort it takes, but most importantly how amazingly powerful the most simple smile can be.  Yes, a smile changes everything.


I know someone who doesn’t like their smile very much.  Doesn’t like the way her mouth turns up at the edges.  Now this was never a person who had been conscious of her smile until a couple of years ago.  You see on a regular day, in a matter of seconds, a virus entered and spread its damage by paralyzing one side of her of face.  The face that had always stared back at her in the mirror was suddenly different, as gravity seemed to tug on one side a little harder.  The paralysis would take a couple of months to overcome but eventually she would regain complete function of her face.   Everyone would look at her and think she was back to normal, but she would remember the calling card of the virus, and would see something different every time she stared in the mirror.  She would see a slight imperfection, a smile that wasn’t quite the same as the one she had come to expect.  A smile that wouldn’t allow her mouth to curl up as high on one side as it had before.  In her mind, her smile had suddenly stopped working.  Her smile was broken.

But you see a smile is not simply the way your mouth contours to a certain position, but a feeling that is projected outward.  It is something that you feel much more than you actually see.  And what she doesn’t know and what she can never see in her mirrored reflection, is how her smile looks through other people’s eyes.  For when others see her smile they will say it is beautiful.  It is magical and powerful.  They would never spot the subtle difference in her smile, as they are too overpowered by the love and happiness that seems to beam from it.

The smile the virus left behind is perfect in every way.  I know this because in the days when I am tired and exhausted and ready to throw in the towel, that smile is able to shine a magnificent light through me.  My eyes see something beautiful, but I know it’s true power lies in the confirmation I get from my heart.  Somehow, someway, that little insignificant act lets me know that everything will be ok, and that today is truly such a great day.

Yes its seems as though a single smile really can change the world.


  1. Your words moved me to tears!! how in the world did I get so lucky? Thanks you for this beautiful post, you made my day!

  2. Richard,
    This is so beautiful. It brought tears to my eyes. I am trully so proud of the man that you have become. And I could not love Shannon more if she were my own daughter.

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