The Smile Game

When I was a little girl, my sister and I used to play the Smile Game. Whenever we were out and about, running errands with our mom, going to the supermarket, or waiting at the stoplight, we’d have a little competition to see who could find the most smiles amongst the people passing by.

We’d watch businessmen hurrying while talking on their cell phones, drivers honking past, beggars holding out a frayed hat, parents trying to keep up with their energetic children, teenagers buried in their cyber world. A potpourri of frazzled faces, faraway faces, scowling faces, blank faces … We’d tally up our smiles, surprisingly few in number—a giggling couple, young and in love; a grandma laughing at her grandson’s antics; a salesman approaching a new customer …

Years passed, and the Smile Game was long forgotten. As a teenager, I wasn’t much different from those other tense faces on the street, lost in my music and in a rage at the world in general.

When I was 15, during a family holiday at the beach, a friend of my parents invited us to dinner at his restaurant. It was a beautiful, breezy location beneath the palms, with a pastel sunset. He was a cheerful and hospitable gentleman, and made sure we were all comfortable and at ease. After a few moments of conversation, he looked at me, suddenly concerned, and asked,

“Why don’t you smile? Are you sad?”

Caught off guard, I assured him I was feeling great. But it wasn’t the first time someone had asked me that and it shook me out of my self-revolving world.

I had thought I was the only one who could see the clouds above my head, but I was wrong. Our “personal rain clouds” are, in fact, part of the same sky that everyone lives beneath, and the streets we walk intersect.

Even today, I find myself having to fix my expression now and again. After all, God gave us our senses to enjoy, nature to admire, and a future to look forward to.1

So be happy! Walk in the sunshine.

And you never know—someone may be playing the Smile Game on you.

  1. See Jeremiah 29:11.