LEARNING – smiles in bangladesh

From Judy Garland and Nat King Cole to Micheal Jackson, the song “Smile” has been popular for generations. There must be a reason this song resonates with young and old alike. These beautiful lyrics have a wonderful message to teach us all. I was reminded of this most recently on my visit to Bangladesh.

Smile though your heart is aching
Smile, even though it’s breaking
When there are clouds, in the sky, you’ll get by
If you smile, through your fear and sorrow
Smile, and there’ll be tomorrow
You’ll see the sun come shining through
If you’ll….
Light up your face with gladness
Hide every trace of sadness
Although a tear, may be ever so near,
That’s the time, you must keep on trying
Smile, what’s the use of crying?
You’ll find that life is still worthwhile,
If you’ll just….
Light up your face with gladness
Hide every trace of sadness
Although a tear, may be ever so near,
That’s the time, you must keep on trying
Smile, what’s the use of crying?
You’ll find that life is still worthwhile,
If you’ll just….

I’ve been reading a short little book titled “Smile – The Astonishing Powers of a Simple Act” by Ron Gutman. It is part of the TED series of short ebooks, based on the very popular TED talks. The author recounts his travels around the world and the amazing ways in which the simple act of smiling had the ability to help disarm hostility, ease distrust, and establish friendships.

Smiling is a universal expression of joy, and although some cultures may smile more and some others less, we all make use of and and benefit from smiling. We begin to smile while still in the womb, the latest 3D ultrasound imaging has shown this. Our first smiles after birth are while we sleep, but at about one month old we are capable of conscious smiling. Charles Darwin first wrote of this discovery after noticing the behavior in his own children. Our first smiles are reactions to our environment be it through sound, sight, or touch, but soon we come to understand that our own smiles can cause a reaction in others. We learn that we can inspire smiles in others with our own smile and this makes us smile again in return. This intuitive gesture is known as a “smiling exchange” and is one of the first “games” we learn as infants.

Smiling is the most recognizable facial expression. It can be detected from more than 300 feet away, over twice the distance than any other facial gesture. Charles Darwin also theorized that smiling can have a direct impact on our emotions, not just be a response to emotions. He said that smiling, even if we are not feeling happy, can actually make us happy.

“I will never understand all the good that a simple smile can accomplish.” – Mother Teresa

Here in Bangladesh, the adults are somewhat reticent to smile, but the children at the home more than make up for their less than forthcoming predecessors. They smile freely and openly, indiscriminate of where or when or who they are smiling at. Their smiles are infectious, one smile spreading like wildfire from one edge of the room to the other. Sometimes this may cause trouble, like when they should be studying during class, but most of the time their smiles are welcomed and celebrated bringing warmth and joy to their recipients.

Reading this book made me consider my own smiling behavior. I am fairly open with my smiles in general, but I notice that I have been sporting a bit of a permagrin on these trips and I know it’s because of all these wonderful loving children. They just make me smile… I hope they can make you smile too!

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You may wonder what these children, who are here at Child Haven because they were orphaned or destitute, have to smile about – well a lot actually…

They have a home and caring adults who bathe, clothe, feed, and love them. They have a school where they can gain knowledge and build themselves a better future. They have a huge family of brothers and sisters, aunties and uncles – no actual relation, but equally loving and accepting. They find joy in the simplest of games, be it a form of hopscotch or a bit of cricket with homemade bat and ball.

They are so very happy with the most simplest of things. It makes me wonder why the children of the western world, with all their gadgets and goodies, are still unsatisfied. Why do we constantly want more when we already have so much? When will it be enough?

Thanks for reading!


(This post was also written prior to an internet connection. Back in Nepal now and thankful for the wireless internet at the home.)

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