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As a young child, my mother was always encouraging me to smile more.  I heard it a LOT.  I was never sure if this was supposed to make me feel better, or her, or just to make the world around me a more pleasant place.  In any case, I usually balked a little at the idea of having to adjust my face when it in no way reflected my current mood.  

I always thought her encouragement to have a big smile for every photograph was interesting since her childhood and teenage photographs never had a smile.  She told me later that they were never encouraged to smile for pictures, just the opposite.  And living in times of war, the depression, serious illnesses and shorter lifespans, it’s no wonder that it seemed almost inappropriate or “silly” as she described.

In addition to missing hugs, I am realizing how much we are all missing smiles during this time of the pandemic and mask-wearing.  I know you can look into someone’s eyes and tell if they’re smiling at you, and that’s certainly important and meaningful.  But, I learned long ago to feed off of those wide, big ‘ol, toothy smiles - the kind that go from ear to ear.  They are contagious, and unlike the virus, make you want to go around spreading them to other people everywhere.  

To go down a dark road, which I don’t usually allow myself to do, surely a malicious psychological experiment would be to place people in mostly solitary conditions for long, extended periods, and then make some of the most basic of human interactions like hugging and smiling be forbidden or impossible.  I mentioned to a friend that it’s hard to imagine the long-term psychological effects of these past 6 months, and I do feel they will be significant.  But, as I said, I don’t stay in that mindset for long.  Fortunately, I usually find a way to have new hope with each new day and try to remember how to smile.  Mom would want that.

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