Writing in response to this week’s friendliness challenge, Lynn McCann asks: what’s in a smile?
I must admit that this week’s God52 challenge made me smile… well that’s what we’re being asked to do!
I work with children who have autism. It is a social disability. Some of them have missed out on the early development of social skills that most of us take for granted. Therefore I spend a lot of time assessing children’s social skill ability and putting teaching programmes in place that teach the basic social skills step by step. Children without autism learn these things naturally through interaction with their parents, carers and other children.
So what is in a smile?
We usually begin by giving eye contact, our facial muscles form the smile and we pause long enough to wait for a reaction by the other person. If we are feeling confident we might add a greeting. We then pause ever-so-briefly again to wait for a reply. If all goes well you and the other person can then comfortably move on or start an extended interaction that might develop into full-blown conversation.
What has happened is a two-way communication. Maybe it is something you take for granted and that comes very naturally to you. Maybe you feel a little awkward but can make yourself do it if you think about it. Maybe you’ve just got out of the habit.
What we as humans receive from a smile is a message that says, “I acknowledge you. I am taking my focus away from myself for a moment and giving my attention to you. You have significance and I am showing pleasure in connecting with you.”
However brief this may be, the person on the receiving end can be built up, drawn out of loneliness or sadness. They may smile back, and that can release endorphins in the brain that lifts a mood. A smile can be quite powerful.
One of the joys of my work is receiving a smile from a child with autism that is purposely directed at me. It may be in response to something I’ve given them, something we did together or even better, in response to seeing me. It makes my heart sing.
When we smile at others we are sharing a reflection of our heavenly Father. God smiles down on his people because Jesus has dealt with all our sins and now we can enter into a wonderful relationship with him. If we want others to know how much God loves them…then a smile can reflect his thoughts, open hearts and lead to great communication.
Lynn McCann is a wife, mum to two teenagers, and an ASD teacher who loves Jesus with all her heart. She blogs at http://includedbygrace.wordpress.com about faith, life, and sharing the gospel with people with learning disabilties and ASD.