This week I was traveling and enjoying watching the young children trying to entertain themselves before their flights. I asked a preschooler at the airport, “What is your name?” He just stared at me. I smiled at him. He then just smiled back. He then asked me a question with sounds and words I was not able to understand. I am not sure what language he was speaking. I just stared back at him. He smiled at me. I just smiled back. It was better communication than I had with many people that day.
Communication is tricky. Words are not universally understood by people. Words are something that must be learned. A smile, on the other hand, is first formed intentionally around 6 weeks of age and does not appear to have to be taught. A smile uses approximately 15 muscles that all have to work together to allow an infant to spontaneously offer us a smile. Mothers intuitively smile back at their infant’s first attempts, and the cycle of communication begins.
Smiles lead to cooing sounds which lead to combining sounds and whole words and eventually entire sentence structures used to communicate wants and needs in an effective manner. All that complication starts out as a smile that needs to communicate.
As the boy and I smiled together at the airport, it didn’t matter what our names were or that we could not talk to each other. We could embrace our moment and know that we were both not a threat to each other. I wish I had taken a picture of him smiling to share with you, but we were too busy smiling to ruin the moment with a camera.
As I was sitting in my airplane seat mentally marveling at how we can communicate without words, the woman sitting next to me shared she had three sons. Her 12-year-old does not speak due to a syndrome that was not officially diagnosed until a few years ago. She shared he uses an iPad for communication. As she shared his challenges, she also shared the joy he has. He smiles and is happy.
We talked about his future, and she said her main hope is that he remains happy. He will never speak words or walk unassisted or live on his own. He will never be on the track to be a doctor like his older brother. However, he can remain on the track of happiness and smiles.
My mother-in-law just got out of the hospital today, and one of the first things she told me was, “The doctor had such a nice smile for me.” As much as words are so important to me, today was definitely a great reminder that smiles are the best words we can put in our vocabulary.
- What is something that made you smile today?
- Do you remember exchanging smiles with anyone else today?
- Will you try today to use your own smile to see to make someone else smile? It just may be the best game you can play.
“A smile is a curve that sets everything straight.” Phyllis Diller
“There are a hundred languages in the world, but a smile speaks them all.” Anonymous (Maybe instead of “anonymous” it really should be quoted as from “All Of Us!” 🙂 )