From there to here, from here to there,
funny things are everywhere.
— Dr. Seuss
Two years ago, I was visiting one of the major historical sites in India in the state of Karnataka. Making my way to the rest room (or should I say ‘rest hut’), I noticed a woman mopping the floors. She was playing such an important role, but one that is challenging, mundane and generally not valued by anyone. I always offer a smile and I tip these workers, grateful not only for their service, but for the part they play in my comparatively privileged life.
As I entered the doorway there were her two little boys frolicking about on the tiles. No iPad, smart phone or toy trucks. Just a bucket and water (and detergent). Surreptitiously taking my camera out of my pocket I snapped this shot. The joy and laughter were contagious, as this little one laughed, played, splashed about, lifted his sweet face to the sun and joined his hands in gratitude. Even if he was not fully aware of the gratitude he could feel, it was natural for him, as a Hindu, to hold his hands in prayer.
I stood there for ages watching this truly delightful scene. Whilst visiting the site was absolutely wonderful, the boy in the bucket was the highlight.
Every time I look at this photo it makes me smile. What immense power the joy of another one’s laughter has on oneself! What power the smile evokes! In this case the smile was from ear to ear. For both of us….
And again that same joy is conjured just by remembering this incident as I write this for you.
In my yoga classes, I often ask my students to close their eyes and bring a gentle smile to their face. Then I ask the question: how does that feel? Some of my students tell me that they can’t feel the smile when they have their eyes closed. So I ask them to turn their smile inwards. To be aware that everything will be OK, to curve their lips upward and to create or remember an image that gives them that irrepressible joy.
Then I ask them to turn their inward smile outwards and open their eyes sharing that smile with someone known to them or not; real or imagined; or even to project that smile into an imaginary mirror peering at their own image.
Blind Freddy (whoever he was) knows that smiles are contagious. The part of the brain that is responsible for our facial expression when happy or mirroring another person’s smile resides in the area of an unconscious automatic response. So if you are smiling at someone it is likely that they will smile straight back. If they don’t then they are actually ‘trying’ not to and repressing the response.
I remember once in my teens, being so sad, that a little old lady (she was probably only my age now) came up to me in the street and simply said….’smile my dear…you look so sad…let the smile mellow your worries’. I did smile….. and she smiled for me and with me.
Share your smiles and laughter. Smile at someone for no good reason and watch what happens. You never know, maybe, just maybe, that smile that you offered so freely, actually was an enormous gift to someone who truly needed to be lifted from the doldrums at that very moment.
And whenever you need to give yourself a smile and are not quite sure how to find it, just remember…
the boy in the bucket!
“Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.”
Thich Nhat Hanh