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Posts Tagged ‘the power of a smile’

By Beth Bro Howard


One day, when my husband was 40 years old, he came home from work, looking surprised and said, “I learned the most amazing thing today. When you smile at people, they smile back!”

Apparently, he had conducted his own little experiment while walking down the street. He would make eye contact and smile at people as they walked past him and he was delighted when they smiled back, which he noted, they usually did.

When he shared his discovery with me, I laughed and said, “I am so happy that you’ve learned this when you are 40. You could have lived your whole life and never known this.” At the same time, I realized that this was something I had always known. I’d learned it growing up with my father. My father had a wonderful, easy smile. His teeth were not perfect. He had an overbite, which accentuated the front teeth showing in his smile, offering a bigger grin.

My father didn’t just smile with his mouth, though. His whole face lit up. My father’s friend Paul Newman (not the actor) described my dad best in his memoir, when he wrote, “Kenny was a powerful and joyous force of nature that could not be stopped.” He was exactly that.

I grew up seeing my father bring that smile with him into every situation: from the breakfast table to a formal dinner; from greeting family and old friends to meeting total strangers. He used his smile liberally and especially when thanking someone for their help or for service rendered to him…even bad service.

Later in life, after heart by-pass surgery, the nurses at Evanston Hospital gifted my father a “Best Patient Award” and ribbon. I have no doubt that he won it with his smile, which may have been a rare sight for nurses in a post-surgical hospital setting.

I witnessed over and over again how my father’s smile put people at ease. I watched their faces brighten and felt its effect on my own face, too.

Even at the end of my father’s life, when he was very ill with leukemia and could not get out of bed, he would greet the day and me with a smile. The last thing he said to me was, “I hope to see you again.”

I said, “I hope so, too, Dad,” and we left each other with a smile.

After he died, the most frequent comment written in sympathy notes to our family was, “I will miss his smile.” We do, too.

Now, when someone mentions that they enjoy my smile, I sometimes say, but always think, “Thank you. It was a gift from my father.”



My Father’s Smile, photo © 2007 Beth Bro Howard, all rights reserved

    My Father’s Smile, photo © 2007 by Beth Bro Howard. All rights reserved.



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