A smile can do so many good things - for the person who gives it and also for whoever the blessed recipient is.
I'll start with the giver. A smile can transform a person's face. It can even make somebody plain quite simply beautiful. It can fill out sagging, lined, wrinkly skin - and that alone gives us a very good reason to smile a lot more as we get older!
A smile can not only make you look more cheerful and positive. It can also make you feel better, happier, more optimistic and confident about life in general. That's not to say that people who are smiling on the outside are never feeling down,despondent and blue on the inside. But it can help raise your spirits by a few degrees at least. If it then leads to some friendly conversation with another human being, then the personal benefits are multiplied.
A smile can make you more attractive as a person and thus can win you friends and influence people positively. It is a powerful tool for good public relations. People will always notice a nice, warm, friendly smile - and even if you have facial features that are not so winning, a smile can overcome the negative effects of those that let you down.
Now to the recipient of a smile. A smile can quite simply make a person's day. Smiles are signals that you are somebody others are pleased to see and that they are responding favourably to you. Many people get lots of negative input every day - so a smile can warm a soul that's feeling decidedly chilled and barren for want of human warmth and comfort.
A smile can be like the sun breaking through the clouds on a dismal day. It can restore a person's faith in their own value and the bigger picture of their world. A smile can make them feel that things might even be getting better. It may well make somebody who's depressed to the point of contemplating suicide decide to give life another go for at least one more day. Enough smiles may give them the incentive to do something even more positive that could potentially improve their outlook on life considerably.
A smile can chase away gloom and spread sunshine all around. The smile on a warm, friendly face appearing amongst a group of lonely people in a nursing home, for instance, can bring a light into sad, lifeless eyes. The smile of a baby or child is particularly delightful, irresistible and contagious. Who has not experienced the pure pleasure of receiving a radiant smile from one so fresh from heaven? Many a harried mother, physically, mentally and emotionally worn to a frazzle, has had her spirits restored by the beaming smile of her baby.
I remember when my son was a newborn, he seemed to spend so much time crying in the first six weeks of his life. My first baby had suffered extensive brain damage in the course of her birth. As a result she had never been able to give us a big toothless grin. We saw the pleasure on her face and the light in her eyes - but how I longed for her to be able to smile at me.
Then when she was three, our baby boy came along. Our experience could hardly have been more different - and of course that's what we wanted. But at first there were aspects of those differences that had their own particular difficulties. Whereas our first baby had hardly ever cried, our son awoke to cry - in fact scream - at us. There were no real "warm fuzzies" from him at that stage. He wasn't anywhere near as cuddly as his profoundly disabled sister had been. He was too wriggly and fidgety to just snuggle up to me like she had always done. As a vulnerable, needy mother experiencing a whole new set of responses from my second child, I felt like he didn't even like me.
Then came the long-awaited day when his gorgeous baby smile was switched on - and everything was transformed. Yes, he still cried - or screamed - when he was hungry or having his nappy/diaper changed. But at least he more than compensated for it by also bestowing upon me an abundance of adorable smiles that made me go all gooey and feel that my baby did like me after all.
I remember him reaching that delightful stage where his face was constantly breaking into gorgeous impish smiles which made my heart feel like it was being squeezed tightly with joy and overwhelming love.
Still today, at nearly seven, he can absolutely charm my soul - and of course brighten my often sad heart - with one of his adorable sunshiny smiles. What could beat going to pick my little boy up from school and having him run to greet me with a smile lighting up his whole countenance? It tells me that, despite all my faults and failings, there is at least one little person in the world who is absolutely delighted to see me - and that makes so many other things fade into relative insignificance.
When I was teaching a group of tiny tots in Sunday School back in my home-town of Ulverstone, Tasmania many years ago, one of their favourite songs was "It doesn't cost you anything to S.M.I.L.E." I certainly never had any trouble eliciting just about enough smiles to power a light bulb from that happy bunch. You could be forgiven for thinking sometimes though that you must have to pay a fortune to get some adults to crack a smile for you.
This is particularly the case when you're being served by a surly teenage shop assistant with attitude. What an enormous difference it would make to their feelings about their job - as well as to customer relations and the personal feelings of those they are dealing with - if they would just put a smile on their dial. Everybody would stand to benefit from it in so many ways.
It may sometimes take some effort to overcome your own glum mood enough to lift the corners of your mouth and smile - with your heart in it. Nevertheless, it's so true that smiling costs the giver nothing they don't have hidden somewhere within. Once accessed it can be automatically regenerated time and again, radiating warmth throughout your own soul and flowing out in all directions to touch and warm the souls of others. It's one of the most powerful, magical - and totally free - therapies in the world.
What's more, a smile can have a chain reaction, being passed on from one person to another, with potential to travel many miles in the course of a day. It can certainly brighten and recharge a whole community with positive energy as its light is passed on - like a flaming wick being shared from candle to candle.
We all need lots more smiles. There is too much negativity, sadness, sorrow and despair pervading our world today. It can't all be overcome just by smiling - but smiles sure can make a big difference. So go out into your part of the world and start spreading some today. Make sure your smile reaches your eyes and shines in your whole face. Before you know it, your own heart will be warmer as well - and so will many others.