I have never been very photogenic. Ever since that first most important school kindergarten picture, I have proven that for me smiling naturally in front of a camera is the equivalent of taking the SAT test or any test that makes one break out into a cold sweat. I have been told the story countless times. My mom curled and fixed my hair just right and sent me to school that day unaware of how this day would make family history. I blame the little plastic comb that was handed to me while I waited in line for my turn to be photographed. I tried to beautify myself with it just before the photographer said, "Say cheese!" Ask someone over fifty if you do not remember those little plastic combs that we all received in exchange for our smiles. The disheveled hair and my impish grin has caused much laughter in my family. I will save you "a thousand words." Make your own judgement.
It was the first smile that proved that I would need smile coaching through the years. "Try to look more natural. Don't show your teeth so much. No, now show more teeth." The coaching has been endless, but the results have been -- that same ole' kindergarten smile.
Then as if it couldn't get any worse, at age 52, I was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease. One of the cruel ways Parkinson's affects a person is it takes away one's smile. I remember sitting in my neurologist's office with him asking me to smile. That was one of the ways I was diagnosed. He said that I was beginning to have what is called a masked face. The muscles in my face were less able to show expression. I wanted to say "no, that is just my kindergarten smile," but I knew his diagnosis was accurate.
I have heard it said that it takes less muscles in the face to make a smile than to make a frown. I'm assuming that is true. But for some of us, smiling does not come as naturally. Why do I tell you this story? Well, don't you think it is ironic that I am encouraging people to "Make America Smile?"
However, smiling in front of a camera is different from smiling at people through your day. One is selfie-focused. One is others-focused. As awkward as my smile is, no one coaches me when I smile at others. Genuinely smiling at people in American culture shows affirmation and acceptance. It communicates to others that they matter. Add to that a few simple words like “have a good day” or “take care” and you have doubled your power to brighten someone’s day. One of your best and most simple tools you have to “Make America Smile” is your own smile.
Now go out there and Make America Smile. Share your smile. It communicates that you care, and just for fun, let's see that smile of yours.
Grab someone, an old friend or a new friend, and take a selfie. Post it in the comments section below. Say cheese and share your smile with the world!