Recently, neurologists discovered that smiling is not merely a result of a happy feeling. They found that the act of smiling, even when forced, activates an area in our brain which produces a sense of well being; and, that same mood enhancing effect is produced in another’s brain when they view our smile. Reading this discovery triggered a memory of a silly fantasy I had entertained.
Let me digress. Our kitchen has a set of French doors to an open back porch. Every morning as I grope my way to the coffee pot, I am met by our dog, Staush, who lies waiting outside those doors. As he hears my approaching footsteps, even before he lifts his head, his tail begins to wag. It never ceases to give me joy. He remains there as I have my prayer time at the nearby table.
It was there I happened upon the fantasy (my mind often wanders during prayer.) It began as I was thanking God for how Lovingly Made is his gift of dog to man –how dogs bring such joy. If my chair stirs, or I turn my head toward the door, Staush’s tail will start to wag. It has very long, dense fluffy hair, so it is like a flag waving, saying, “I am happy that you are here with me!” The joy that his wagging tail evoked within me, caused me to fantasize how wonderful it would be if humans had tails which evoked joy into each other.
God created man out of Love and for Love, so when we are loved, we experience the affirmation of our deepest need, and this, we experienced as Joy. God is Triune Love -where the identity of the Three Persons dissolve into One, each belonging to the Other. God created man in His Image. Such then, explains our need to belong.
So maybe, in creating Man’s Best Friend, God created dog in man’s image. In giving the dog a driving need to belong to a pack, the dog, like Man, can only be joyful in belonging to another.
Now I realize, my secret disappointment in God’s tailless design for us, is for naught. He did not give us tails because he gave us something much better. He gave us a Smile.
A smile is better, not just because a tail would make it harder to wear cloths; it is way better because we can wear a smile when we are happy and when we are not. Staush doesn’t know his tail is wagging, he just knows he is delighted in my presence, and his tail shouts it so. A smile can sneak onto our face when we are happy. But we can also make a smile to make another person happy.
The gift of our smile is as powerful as it is delightful. With the slightest effort of a smile, we can interject Joy into the life of another –actually bypassing their choice in the matter. And to possess such a profound power calls us to a profound responsibility. Does not the Heavens demand, that in possessing such a Precious Gift, which has no cost, that we must give it away –especially to those most in need?Two centuries past, Abe Lincoln said, “Smile and you will be happy.” He understood what neural researchers, only today, have discovered. Two millennia past, Jesus said, “Smile and make people happy.” (Well, ok, he’s not actually recorded as saying that –I just deduced those words from his Word that was recorded.) How different we would be, and the world around us, if with every person we meet, we would smile with our ‘Happy Tail’ –we would say, “I am happy that you are here with me!”