“You are one of the shiny-faced people.”
We had been sharing the day together, along with 35 or so other folks, attending a seminar on Bible interpretation. She beamed at me as our mutual friend introduced us.
“When my kids were small, they had a name for certain people at church. They called them the shiny-faced people. You are one of them.”
I smiled my appreciation then watched as this elderly lady made her way across the room, pausing to chat with others as she went. If I was shiny-faced, then she was glow-in-the-dark. This lady was larger than life. And now we are friends. All because I smiled at her.
I think about this dear woman as I watch my son squirm. He grins and ducks his head, casts me a secret glance. I give the signal and, on cue, I see his eyes slowly move…up…up…until they find those of his conversant. Only briefly do they land, quickly dart away and stare off above the person’s shoulder. Then, in a moment of sheer genius, he glances her way again and…the corners of his mouth lift.
We practice smiling.
Some people just naturally know how to relax in a crowd. Not so this boy of mine. Ask him a question and he’ll look away, ignore, try to escape.
He doesn’t understand that this is rude. He only knows he wants to run away–avoid eyes that see him, ears that hear him. It doesn’t feel…safe.
I watched him once, when he was in second or third grade. In the front of the sanctuary with the other children, singing. In the middle of a song, he stops. Looks around. And crumbles. He finds my mother eyes and his are pleading. I gesture for him to come and he does. Falls into my arms and never goes back up there again.
I know panic when I see it.
That was the first realization. Okay. This isn’t going to be easy for him.
Don’t I remember that feeling? Tangible embarrassment, red face, paralyzed thoughts, ache inside…I remember how it feels to be shy.
It hurts. These hands want to fix. And I try. As if clothes or hair or things can give confidence.
I know better. I know where confidence comes from–and you can’t buy it.
So I trust. And I love.
And I help him practice smiling.
It’s a good place to start. I smile a lot myself.
To some people this constitutes a shiny face. Others just find it annoying.
I remember a friend asking long ago, “Why are you always smiling?”
It wasn’t a compliment.
How to tell her because? Because I remember those who smiled at me? Because, for a girl who was always invisible those smiles meant I was seen? How do I explain the way those smiles bolstered me, embraced me, opened my eyes to beauty?
I tell Teddy that a smile is the gift that we can always, always give.
So we practice.
Shine on, friends. Smile at someone today.