It started with a smile. From my warm, cozy nook next to the fireplace I could tell that it was going to be a happily ever after. Or at least something I would remember for a few hours. That’s pretty much what passes for “happily ever after” these days, right?

There I was in my usual spot; wish-fulfilling coffee in one hand and thought-fulfilling book in the other. On a brisk, November, North Idaho afternoon, what could possibly be better? (And I’m sure that you and I could both come up with a good response to that lob-ball over the plate, but just go with me here.) Then it happened. It was one of those perfect moments that you only see in film. I looked up from my book at the exact moment that she looked over from the customer. Our eyes met and sparks flew. Smiles were knowingly exchanged.

She the dark-haired barista of my dreams, and I the bearded intellectual with a book in the corner. You almost couldn’t have written it better….Okay, so that’s not exactly howit happened. In reality, I’m pretty sure her smile was just a holdover from the smile she gave to the older gentleman at the counter. So at best I got a leftover smile from someone old enough to be her grandpa. And I don’t even recall smiling back. But it got me thinking about smiles.

Smiles are truly intriguing things. Withing their utter simplicity lies the power to inexplicably alter. Lets start small. First, they really can change your mood. I think we’ve all experienced that in some degree. Not only are smiles useful in reflecting how we fell, but they are also mischievous agents that work to change the way we feel. When you see an authentic smile, you just can’t help but smile back. It’s true. They did a scientific study on it.

Second, the smile has a significant impact on the mind. We do our utmost to decipher the meaning behind human actions. This is an endeavor that envelops much of our social interactions. Many of these human actions are fairly self-explanatory – such as picking the nose, wiping lunch leftovers from the chin, and getting shifty (it’s obviously past their normal potty-time) – yet, there are others that are shrouded in mystery. The smile tends to be one of those pesky reflectors we can’t quite get at. Yes, it does possess the power to reveal one’s true soul, but we don’t exactly have the codebook to decipher all human smiles. It’s a rather inconsistent artform. Sometimes we fail. Other times we fail less.

We can tell if they’re genuine (Once again; science), but genuinely what? It is this ambiguity that sends the mind aflutter. Was the smile out of interest? Sympathy? Constipation? Is there something in my teeth? Did I unknowingly lose some teeth? The mind is a maze, and a smile can drop us willy-nilly somewhere in the middle of it all.

Finally, the smile has the power of rapid course-correction. Beyond the ability to simply make you feel happy or momentailry forget your worries, a simple smile can cause one to utterly change the course of their lives. For proof of this point, talk to someone who’s married. Or…with the current condition of marriage in this country, maybe it’s just safter to talk to that twitterpated couple cuddling in the back corner. They obviously have no qualms about breaking with social norms – or causing some of us to lose our appetites. Yet, their rudders have been set. And it all starts…with a smile.

So back to the moment. She smiled. And here I sit with an odd grin (writing just does that to me) on my face, lost in a world of quandary. I now have a pen in one hand, and a notebook in the other. I sit as living proof of the potency of a smile. Now if I could just figure out what I did with my coffee.

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