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Smile . . . and the world smiles with you

Father Mark Goldasich is the pastor of Sacred Heart parish in Tonganoxie. He has been editor of the Leaven since 1989.

by Father Mark Goldasich

I’m afraid I’m stuck in a time warp.

Why are there back-to-school ads on TV and in the newspaper already? Can it really be that the month of August is practically here? Wasn’t it just Memorial Day yesterday? Where has the summer gone?

Perhaps it’s because those questions pop up at this time of year that we have a much-needed holiday to offset our nervous spirits. I don’t know about you, but I can sure use National Smile Week, celebrated during the second week of August, when the first Monday of the month normally occurs. This year, however, it starts earlier, on Aug. 1, since that’s the first Monday. Hallelujah! I’m smiling already.

Doesn’t it seem like our national expression has devolved into a frown, a scowl or a sneer? Even here in the Heartland, people are starting to avoid eye contact. We’re insulated in our own little worlds, where we perceive everyone as the “other,” a potential threat or enemy.

For Christians, this attitude should concern us. After all, aren’t we called to be messengers of the good news? And for us Catholics in particular, who believe that we carry the Lord within us after we receive Communion, how could we be anything but joyful? Jesus has entrusted us to build bridges between people, not fences.

One of the easiest ways to do that is with a smile, as this story shows:

A little boy came home from his first day of school and said to his mother, “There’s a little girl from Colombia in my class!”

The mother asked, “Does she speak any English?”

“I’m not sure,” answered the little boy. “But it doesn’t matter, since she smiles in English!”

A first step in healing our divided world might start by embracing National Smile Week. Some easy ways to do that could be:

• First thing in the morning, give yourself a big smile in the bathroom mirror and make sure that smile reaches your eyes.

• Display pictures around your home of special happy times spent with family and friends.

• Spend time with someone who makes you smile.

• Jot down throughout the week the things that make you smile: a funny joke, a delicious snack, a child’s hug, a compliment at work, a (rare) Royals win or a spectacular sunset.

• Make eye contact while shopping or walking and shamelessly share your smile.

There is great power in a smile. Spend some time pondering this:

“A smile costs nothing but gives much. It enriches those who receive, without making poorer those who give. It takes but a moment, but the memory sometimes lasts forever. . . . A smile creates happiness in the home, fosters good will in business, and is the countersign of friendship. It brings rest to the weary, cheer to the discouraged, sunshine to the sad and is nature’s best antidote for trouble. Yet it cannot be bought, begged, borrowed or stolen, for it is something that is of no value to someone until it is given away. Some people are too tired to give you a smile. Give them one of yours, as none needs a smile so much as the one who has no more to give.” (Found in “Illustrations Unlimited,” edited by James S. Hewett.)

Hey, that reminds me: I’m overdue for a visit to my dentist!

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Fr. Mark Goldasich

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