Think about it. I’m guessing there are more things that can make your heart smile than you can shake a frown at.
Smiles are one of the things that make my world go ’round. Honestly. I love smiling. I love seeing smiles on the faces of people I love – my wife, my kids, my family, my friends. I love making people smile with a joke or a positive comment.
Smiles are what makes a day seem better, whether you’re the one doing it, or putting a smile on someone else’s face. Smiles make a dark cloud disappear, and can be a ray of sunshine to us or to others.
Smiles can be found on the faces of anyone – it’s a universal expression of joy and happiness. But often, it’s not our face that’s left smiling. I’ve often thought of my heart as something that is capable of smiling. It might be one of a million things – different for each one of us. For me, I can list a few, but I wouldn’t have enough time to list even a fraction of all of them. I often catch my heart smiling at a particular moment in time, and yet, I often catch it smiling at a life-long blessing.
I’ll give you an example out of my life. Every morning, my routine is to get up, shower and get dressed. After that, I go to get our 8-month-old son. I spend a few minutes with him – I change his bum, I chat with him, I tell him I love him. These few short minutes are so important to me. And they make my heart smile. Before I leave the upstairs, I go back to my girls’ rooms, and just look at them sleeping – knowing they’ll be starting their day soon, and feeling grateful for the blessing they are in my life. And finally, I go back to our room, and I kiss my wife good-bye and I tell her I love her. Every morning. Sometimes she stirs and tells me she loves me. Sometimes, I know she’s too tired to know I’m there. But I do it for me too. Moments like these don’t necessarily cause me to crack a grin, but my heart is smiling from one heart-ear to the other.
I think we’ve become conditioned by our relative affluence in North America – conditioned and unquestionably talented. Yes, talented. We have an incredible capacity to find things to complain about, and we realize this about ourselves. We even have a Twitter hashtag for it – #firstworldproblems. I still remember the first one I ever read – it went something like this: I cried myself to sleep on my goose-down pillow covered with a 600-count Egyptian cotton casing, because I couldn’t get a white iPhone yesterday. They’re funny, no doubt, but in the end, when the complaints become real, we tend to lose focus on what’s important in life.
I could find something to complain about wherever I turn, if I wanted to. But if you spend just an extra second, your heart will invariably treat you to a delicious counterpoint to your complaint and you may realize that you really have nothing to complain about. Ever.
“Man, this traffic is brutal today! Stupid road construction everywhere I turn.” Counterpoint: Oh wait, I suppose I could be thankful that I have a car to drive.
“I can’t get over how useless this work meeting is.” It reminds me of a joke a good friend of mine told me: “I’m looking everywhere – for the point of this meeting!” Counterpoint: Oh wait, I have a job – a privilege that many others, including right here in our rich and blessed city, don’t have. And, I can always start looking for other jobs, or even another career. This is a right that nobody can take away from me.
“I really could do with some peace and quiet. My kids are driving me absolutely crazy. And why, WHY does Amalie have to sing so loud?!” Counterpoint: I suppose I could also be thankful that my family was blessed with children in the first place, since there are plenty of families who would give anything to hear children of their own.
“This line-up at Starbucks is absolutely ludicrous. I haven’t spent this much time in a drive-thru since…. well, probably yesterday. I hate this!” Counterpoint: Um, if you can afford to buy a Starbucks coffee, you’re doing alright. If you had time to stop for a drive-thru line-up in the first place, you have an extra couple of minutes to spare. And oh right, the vast majority of this world’s population live in places where getting a Starbucks coffee is impossible, never mind your double venti nonfat medium-foam organic chocolate brownie extra hot latte.
I’m not writing this to tell you what’s important in your life. And I’m not writing this to tell you to stop being ungrateful or to stop complaining. I likely don’t know you, and almost certainly don’t know you well enough to tell you what you should be considering important in your own life. That’s up to everyone to decide. But I can tell you what’s important to me.
Getting joy out of life is simple, and I’ve found a great way to start is this: start looking for the things I have in my life that I should, no NEED to be thankful for. I am trying to learn to never take things in this life for granted. I’m pretty sure very few of us can take full credit for all the amazing things in our life, and so I choose to call them blessings. My blessings include a wife that is absolutely perfect for me; 3 kids that have me wound around each of their fingers; families on both sides of our marriage that are absolutely incredible and with whom we are very compatible (think about how big of a blessing that is); my family’s and my own health; a job; living in a country that sees peace reign – day in and day out; the ability to practice freedom of religion, speech, you name it.
These blessings and many, many more are what don’t necessarily contribute to making my face smile (although they should), but they serve to make my heart smile. And when my heart smiles, I want to share it with others. I want to make others smile, even if it’s only their heart. I want to give of my own to make the day or the world of someone else better. I want to make the heart of someone, who may have less than I have, smile to the point of bursting – even if it’s for a moment.
Try to see all the amazing things in your life, try to be thankful for them, and try to catch your heart smiling. I promise you this – it will never hurt you, or be taxing. You’ll want to do it more often, and hopefully complain less. Most of us have little or nothing to complain about, and much, if not everything, to be grateful for. Choose to accept the joy that life offers you. Make a list tonight – alone or with your significant other. Write down everything in your life that you can be thankful for. I guarantee you’ll run out of room on that sheet. Aimie and I have been trying to make a daily list before we go to bed – and it has been an eye-opener. Just to list the things that we are grateful for from that day is enough to make my heart smile.
One day, when your time here is done, and you look back on your life, I hope you’ll see thousands of smile wrinkles around your heart. It’ll have been a life worth living, my friend.
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