I am told that the muscles of the face are capable of over 250,000
different combinations of expressions. And one of the most useful is
a smile. And though I’m a fan of kissing, I appreciate that smiling
is still one of the best things I can do with my lips.

Sometimes I hear or read something that is so true, I know I will
never forget it. One of those gems is an observation from Fulton J.
Sheen, who said, “A smile across the aisle of a bus in the morning
could save a suicide later in the day.” Over the years, I’ve come to
realize the magnitude and truth in that statement. People NEED the
healing medicine of the heart that just a smile, even from
strangers, provides. In fact, we all need it. And for some folks,
that medicine can save a life.

One psychiatrist puts it like this. Dr. Thomas Malone, of Atlanta,
Georgia, says, “In my practice at the Atlanta Psychiatric Clinic,
people sometimes ask me what psychiatry is all about. To me, the
answer is increasingly clear. Almost every emotional problem can be
summed up in one particular bit of behavior — it’s a person walking
around screaming, ‘For God’s sake, love me!’ Love me, that’s all. He
goes through a million different manipulations to get somebody to
love him.” (Thanks to Dr. James Moore for the quote.)

I think he says something I need to hear. He is saying that at the
core of our being is a need for someone to care. And if that itch is
not scratched, we go to great lengths to satisfy it.

But I’ve noticed something else, too. It appears to me that some of
the healthiest people around seem to spend less time trying to
scratch an itch to be loved, and more time looking for people to
reach out to. These are the ones who are most likely to smile across
the aisle of a bus. They understand that everyone is fighting some
kind of battle, even if they hide it well. And if they were to
express their personal life mission, it might include something
like, “I try to always love the people I encounter along life’s

They never say they can’t make a difference. They never say they
have nothing to contribute. They always know that, even if they have
nothing else, they can always give a smile, spontaneously and
sincerely. A smile may not seem like much, but it can be a warm
blanket on a cold night. And for a while, anyway, if can soothe the
itch to be loved.

My smile may not save a life, but it might save a day. And if not,
it’s still one of the best things I can do with my lips.

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