The Slovaks have told us during the decades of communist oppression people stopped smiling, looking each other in the eye, or greeting one another as much when passing on the street. This became a habit and for many years if you smiled “too much” people would think you were “touched in the head”. It is fascinating what a genuine smile can do- I mean really look someone in the eyes and smile, the kind of smile that sees someone and causes your face to light up. There are stories about people who were on their way to jump off a bridge, when someone passing by smiled at them, and they later recount they felt connected and believed there was some good left in the world, so they decided not to jump.
I have seen much pain, suffering, and evil during my lifetime, mostly because of my job. As much as it is up to me I try not to add to anyone’s pain. There’s enough hurting in this world. One of my greatest joys while serving in Slovakia is attempting to greet everyone, everywhere, all the time – with a great big smile! I am sure there are some who believe I am “touched in the head”. I’m okay with that. What I am always looking for is if they smile back, even just a little. As oppression has lifted, hope and freedom are being restored, and habits are changing.
After several trips to the same coffee spot I learned one of the wait person’s name, and greeted her with a smile each time we ordered. I had not seen her for a couple of days when I happened to be on the other end of the square in a shopping area. We saw each other in passing and her face lit up with a big smile as she greeted me in English with a big Hello! I smiled and said hello back.
I also like to think that we reflect the hope and joy of Jesus- in our eyes and our on our faces. For too many years I believed in a very stern looking God, often disappointed in me, and certainly not grinning or showing a toothy smile. Hearing the account of the prodigal son returning home to his father, and knowing that his father represented our Heavenly Father, it dawned on me. This is how He sees me. I imagine what His face looks like as we encounter each other- and I can see His face light up when He sees me, with a great big smile.
The photo attached to this post is from the Vacation Bible School children at the local church. I believe they are self-portraits. Most are smiling 🙂
“…..always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that is within you…” 1 Peter 3:15
“A happy heart makes the face cheerful, but heartache crushes the spirit.” Prov 15:13
“Light in a messenger’s eyes brings joy to the heart, and good news gives health to the bones.” Prov 15:30