When I was about 12 my teacher tried to get me to ‘smile with my eyes’ for my class photo.
I still remember that day. Sitting on that stool on the stage in the school gym, trying for a real smile. Awkward. It was only when I started to laugh that he took the picture.
That memory has come back to me more than once over the past few weeks as I shoot photos for the Free Press. People have remarked how they’re happy they don’t have to smile for the camera because nobody can tell behind their mask. I’ve taken more than a few pictures with people standing ramrod straight, with serious expressions, like those old-timey photos from 100 years ago when couples stood six feet apart on their homestead.
It might seem like the masks are a good reason not to smile. But news flash: we can tell. Whether it’s a glint, or a squint, or the tiny crinkling lines at the corners, your eyes don’t lie when you truly smile or laugh.
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And honestly, we could all use more smiles right now.
This has been a tough year for all of us and it’s especially hard now with Christmas around the corner. There are a lot of people struggling. Seniors are isolated. People are out of work. Families are missing each other this holiday season.
A smile doesn’t cost anything and could go a long way to making a stranger’s life a little brighter. Smile when you open a door for someone. Smile at the cashier when you pay for your groceries. Smile just for the sake of smiling.
I’ve had a lot of reasons to smile this year. It’s been a tumultuous time for me, as I switched jobs and moved lock, stock and barrel from the city to country. But it has also been a year of introspection, of embracing my inner introvert. It’s made me realize not to sweat the small stuff but to celebrate little blessings. Cuddles with my cats, homemade preserves, my first real white Christmas in a long time – not the flukey one-day Christmases of the Lower Mainland.
The solitude has also brought me a semblance of peace and given me a new layer of creativity. My mind is calmer and more alert. Everywhere I go I remember childhood stories or experience small kindnesses of people I have known or have just met. I have reconnected with one of my best friends forever from high school – that’s how we used to sign those school photos – and have made new ones.
They say when you smile, the world smiles with you. Maybe if we all smile, we can make this Christmas merry and bright for all.