I’ve taken smiles for granted.
A smile makes you feel welcome in a foreign land.
A smile excuses you for your broken Hebrew asking where the bathroom is. (“Ei-fo ha-she-ru-teem?” Just imagine a tall blonde with an American accent pronouncing each morpheme at a snail’s pace like the server wouldn’t catch it otherwise.)
A smile breaks invisible barriers in place from years of politics and misconceptions, language and cultural differences.
A smile makes you human. A smile lets your guard down, and it allows someone else to do likewise.
Until this point, I’ve taken smiles for granted. Midwest America has a beaming grin plastered to its face 24/7. Everyone wants to sit down and tell their life story or hear yours in the heartland over a plate of sweet corn on the cob.
Israel is a defensive nation because of their traumatic history and their present situation with certain Middle East neighbors. Once an Israeli knows you, they open their heart and are some of the most genuine and generous people I’ve ever met. What’s more, they want to show you every nook and cranny of their beautiful homeland.
But they’re so guarded at first, which may have been the greatest culture shock to me upon arriving here.
It was a simple smile from the Israeli barista to inspire this thought today: a smile is worth far more to someone else than the cost to you.
But wait…a smile is free. And it can transform a person’s day! Indulge my soapbox preaching for a minute: why would we waste an opportunity to lift someone else up, possibly make their day, (even restore their faith in humanity as was the case for me after constant stone-cold faces directed my way), with absolutely no personal expenditure?
Even if you live in smiley Iowa, Oklahoma, or Colorado, someone needs to be encouraged today. You could give them hope that their current situation isn’t forever, peace that better days are ahead.
That’s how far a smile will go.