Have you ever seen a jogger smile?
There is a park alongside the river that is a convenient place for me to stop on the way home from work.
While traffic hums by, there are trails winding through patches of woods, green space and the river itself that make it ideal for jogging (or in my case lumbering).
Just the other day, as I was huffing and puffing and wondering if I was burning enough calories for a well-deserved desert, I noticed that most everyone I met along the trail was smiling at me.
Everyone knows that joggers usually do not smile, so the number of smiling faces surprised me.
Some smiles are suspicious, while other smiles have a hint of ridicule. But the smiles of the joggers I passed seemed genuine and happy. “Gee, there sure are a lot of nice people around here,” I thought.
And then it occurred to me: I was wearing my “smiley” shirt.
It isn’t just any smiley shirt. This shirt had the mud-splattered smiley face inspired by the fictionalized account from the movie “Forrest Gump.”
I realized that the people I passed were smiling at me, but more specifically they were smiling at my shirt. I attempted to live up to my good-natured shirt and smile back.
Living up to the smile is an interesting idea and a much-needed practice today.
Sometimes smiles are fake; most of us know one when we see one. Sometimes smiles are just a feeble attempt to cover up melancholy.
I never like it when someone tells me, “Smile!” especially when I just do not feel like smiling.
Yet, there are times when I think we are far too guarded with our smiles, as if a smile makes us vulnerable or appear weak or indolent.
It is true that I sometimes smile a bit too enthusiastically for photos, but more often than I want to admit my face reflects selfish distractions.
I love to be around smiles that come freely and generously. I love to see smiles because something is silly and it is OK to enjoy the moment.
I love it when someone greets me with a smile simply because they are happy to see me.
In a world deafened by traffic noises, acerbic political discourse and mean-spirited exchanges, we need more smiles of kindness.
Paul writes, “Be kind and compassionate to one another (Ephesians 4:32) and more simply, “Love is kind” (1 Corinthians 13).
There is just too much meanness in the world, and worse, too many of us tolerate it, as if we endorse such surliness, by calling it “righteous indignation.” Our face often publicizes what is going on in our hearts.
I pray that God will grace each of us with something that will bring a smile to our face. That we will find time to reflect on loved ones and let our smile show. That, for no particular reason, we will choose to smile at someone else and by doing so, open up a window of kindness to another.
Greg DeLoach is president and CEO of Developmental Disabilities Ministries of Georgia. He served previously as senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Augusta, Georgia. A version of this article first appeared on his blog, Pilgrim’s Walk, and is used with permission. You can follow him on Twitter @GregDeLoach.
Interim Dean at McAfee School of Theology of Mercer University and Director of Development at McAfee School of Theology and College of Professional Advancement.