It's more than a simple expression of feeling.
I always wondered about that as I passed her by in my car. I even felt sorry for her some, having to spend all her life carrying on her face such a huge blemish, and with no way short of plastic surgery to hide it.
One day I returned to my car after shopping at Walmart and saw the same woman walking toward me. I decided to give her a small smile in greeting.
What I saw stopped me. Not that she smiled back, but how her smile transformed her. The scar disappeared, not literally, but because her smile was so genuine and expressed the depth of her inner joy, I could see only the astonishing beauty she possessed inside. My own smile increased in return, and didn’t waver for the rest of the day.
Scientists have also discovered that even if we smile when we don’t necessarily feel happy, the brain releases endorphins. They in turn increase our happy mood.
That’s no accident.
The smile is universal. It requires no translation no matter what our language, culture, or past experience. Children smile in the womb, and the oldest person on earth has the capability until their last breath. I’d wager those who live the longest also smile a lot.
A smile can diffuse a tense situation between friends, strangers, sometimes even enemies. It is contagious. Whenever I pass someone by, I remember the woman and think, "I may not have the beautiful smile she did, but perhaps I can spread some of her joy."
With much of our communication these days done with email and text messaging, and no way to see the expression of the sender or recipient, is it any wonder the most used emoticon is the smile?