My grandfather had a favorite saying that went something like this, “A frown is just a smile upside down.” Nobody could smile quite like my grandfather. He never waited for any reason to smile, he just smiled.
In fact, thinking about it today, I do not ever remember seeing my grandfather frown. I am sure he did, because we all do. However, it was not a major part of his life.
Whenever the Gracious Mistress of the Parsonage sends me to the grocery store, I usually notice most people have an upside down smile. Some of them look like they have worked very hard to get it. Me, I walk around smiling.
Occasionally I will have to do something to make somebody smile. It gets under my skin when I see somebody not smiling and I start itching. I know I have to do something to change that situation.
I notice when walking around smiling and looking at people right in their eyes, I usually get a smile in return. Then I will smile at the people smiling back at me who do not have any understanding of why they are smiling. They are smiling because a smile is contagious and they don’t know it.
Recently my wife was worried about something; I forget what it was now. She was thinking and thinking and I could see she was trying to solve some kind of a problem. She is a great problem solver. I, on the other hand, only know how to create problems.
Her demeanor was rather down, her face had one of those upside down smiles and I knew she was working on something rather serious. I had two choices. Either, I go along with her upside down smile or I turn things around and get the smile going. The only way to do this is not saying anything, just smile outrageously.
If I am good at anything, it is smiling outrageously at nothing at all. Maybe I inherited this from my grandfather, I am not sure.
The situation demanded that I do something. So, whenever she came into the living room where I was sitting I would smile outrageously to her. I would smile so outrageously that it almost developed into hysterical laughter.
After coming in several times she finally stopped, put both hands on her hips and said, “Why are you smiling?” At that point, I knew I had her. What I do next is very important if I am going to turn her frown upside down.
“Oh,” I said while laughing, “I was just thinking about what one of the grandchildren said the other day.” All I have to mention is the word “grandchildren,” and I got her in my claws.
Her hands dropped off her hips, she walked over, sat down looking at me all the time and said, “What about the grandchildren?” As she said that she was smiling and if I can get her smiling long enough, she will forget about what she was frowning about.
So, I went into a long detail of what the grandchildren were doing the other week. By the time I was done, she was laughing and said, “Oh, those grandchildren. Aren’t they the best grandchildren in the world?”
Not only are smiles contagious, but they have a healthy element to it. For the rest of the day all I had to do was smile when she passed me and she smiled back because I knew she was thinking about those grandchildren.
Personally, I do not spend much time with an upside down smile. I like to get my world straightened up and enjoy it. I do not know how long I have to live, but I certainly want to die smiling. I want people coming to my casket, looking at me and walk away asking themselves, “What is he smiling about?”
On occasion, I enjoy going to a restaurant by myself and have a cup of coffee. I like to sit in a back corner somewhere so I can see what is happening.
One thing I noticed is that most waitresses do not smile too much. I know they have a hard job to do and very few people appreciate them. My objective in a restaurant of that nature is to leave the restaurant with everybody smiling. What does it take to get somebody to smile?
One time I went up to the cash register to pay my bill and noticed the woman behind the cash register was not smiling. I was thinking she was having a hard day. Then an idea snuck into the corridors of my mind.
“My waitress told me that if I mentioned to you how nice you look today, you would give me a discount.” Looking at her, I was smiling and suddenly she broke into laughter. She told me it was the first time she laughed that day.
Much to my surprise, she did give me a discount on my lunch. I was not expecting that and so I was smiling all the way to my car.
One of my favorite Bible verses is, “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones” (Proverbs 17:22).
If that is true, and it is, I want a doctorate in smileology and as far as I know, nothing can cure laughter-itis.
Since 1997, Rev. James L. Snyder has written a weekly religion/humor column, “Out To Pastor,” syndicated to over 300 newspapers and many websites. The Rev. Snyder is an award winning author whose writings have appeared in more than eighty periodicals including GUIDEPOSTS. In Pursuit of God: The Life of A. W. Tozer, Snyder’s first book, won the Reader’s Choice Award in 1992 by Christianity Today. Snyder has authored and edited 30 books altogether.
James L. Snyder was given an honorary doctorate degree (Doctor of Letters) by Trinity College in Florida. His weekly humor column, “Out To Pastor,” is syndicated to more than 325 weekly newspapers.