Why can't we look at people like God does? Why can't we see what's inside?
By Marilyn Mackenzie
A glad heart makes a cheerful countenance. Proverbs 15:13 NRSV
This picture is how I looked in 1970. For a more recent picture, see "The ABC's of Me" .
When I was a kid, looks didn’t have the significance placed upon them like in today’s world. I wasn’t an ugly kid, nor a beautiful one. An e-friend recently saw my high school picture and termed me "cute."
Perhaps I was cute, but being cute or pretty was not an important part of my life nor of my thoughts. There weren’t many "super models," and girls weren’t obsessed with being like those who did make their living smiling for the camera. (Don’t get me wrong. We did sometimes think it would be fun to look like the Cover Girl model. But we’d simply buy the make-up and try to copy the look. We didn’t starve ourselves trying to be thin, and the only plastic surgery we’d heard about was performed on celebrities who wanted to reduce the size of a really huge nose.)
What was important in the days of my youth, and what should still be important, were the inner qualities of a person.
I think our inner selves are projected through our outward mannerisms. "Body language" does speak to us and tell much about the inner soul and our struggles. Take note of the youth around you as you walk through the mall. Girls who think they don’t measure up walk with their heads down as if hiding. Guys, some also timid and unsure of themselves, embrace a bravado attitude, pretending toughness by strutting as if they really didn’t care.
Each of these long desperately to belong to a group, as if being alone, as if walking or shopping alone is to be considered a fate worse than death. Today, people appear to be defined only collectively and not on their own merits. How sad.
I used to hate it when my parents and grandparents related stories beginning with the words, "When I was a kid." But as I’ve aged, I’ve understood their need to remember and their longing for a simpler time.
Back in my day, we did appear to have more confidence in ourselves. Groups could intermingle and persons could actually be members of many groups. Bookworms could be hippies; jocks could be bookworms. And no matter whether a person belonged to group or not, they were respected for their similarities and their differences.
The fastest introductions we had were smiles, and we shared them often and genuinely. The words, "He has a great smile," didn’t mean he was ugly, nor that he was drop-dead gorgeous. It simply meant that the first thing anyone noticed about him was the smile he readily donned.
I’ve shared these thoughts and ponderings with my son over the years, figuring they’d always fallen on deaf ears. Then one day some months ago, he told me, excitedly of an observation he’d had. While strolling through the mall, alone, but this time with his head held high as if he knew his own worth, and feeling no need to strut, he smiled at people.
He smiled at younger kids and they smiled back. He smiled at older folks, and they returned a smile and said hello. Thrilled with the results of his brief survey, he rushed home to tell me that I’d been right. Gasp!
My son was quick to add that he’d not tried smiling at his peers, at teens.
"Teenagers are strange animals, Mom," he explained.
"How right you are, Son," I answered, as I thought to myself, "He has a beautiful smile."
My son, 2000.