Home > Love, Women > Please keep smiling

Please keep smiling

For several years, I worked next to a mosque. Its parking lot often overflowed on Fridays and religious holidays; on such days, my company’s owners permitted its congregants to park in the company parking lot.

Once, I saw women step out of a car and cover themselves for service. I smiled on my way into the office. They smiled back.

Many times, I walked by women already covered. I’d smile at each, if she looked at me; much more often than not, I’d see eyes wrinkling from smiles returned.

(Seeing mouths isn’t the most important thing to seeing smiles.)

After exchanging such smiles one afternoon, I remembered a conversation with a male friend years before and hundreds of miles away.

“You’re not supposed to look at them when they’re dressed like that!” he’d told me. I replied that I’d never heard such a thing, and that I’d keep greeting human beings as human beings.

I posted about the new smile and the old conversation on Facebook. “Please keep smiling,” one Muslim friend soon replied. 

I committed to doing so.

A year ago, I saw a Muslim family on a plane and just about broke into a cold sweat.

I came to my senses soon enough. Warm smiles were exchanged that day, too. 

When I returned home, I told my husband, “Fearmongering works!”

(I vow now not to let it.)

“Yep.” he replied. “That’s why they use it.”

Protesting at LAX last weekend, I saw many women wearing hijabs. In all the hubbub, I only spoke with two. I was tired and ineloquent as I greeted them with my two-year-old on my hip, but they were lovely.

“Ugh, I’m saying all the wrong things,” I mumbled a couple minutes into conversation. Both women, Sara and Hannah, said no, no, no; Hannah’s face was especially aglow with compassion that filled me with a sense of okay-ness.

Maybe I didn’t say the right words. Maybe there are no right words.

What I do know is that I said I’d keep smiling.

I meant it,

and I will.

  1. February 3, 2017 at 1:21 pm

    Connecting directly with another person with a smile is the best way to address problems, together. Thanks for the reminder to keep smiling!

    • February 5, 2017 at 7:40 am

      It really is! What you wrote reminded me of something I posted shortly after having my head shaved back in 2012:

      “If the thought of talking to a stranger terrifies you, consider offering a smile. The power of a smile is enormous.

      “It’s that smile that shows the light within, and all those beautiful lights within reflected outward that brighten the world for all.”

      • February 6, 2017 at 8:40 am

        So true. let’s keep smiling!

  2. February 3, 2017 at 2:45 pm

    Smiles are a universal language. I really love this post.

  3. February 3, 2017 at 3:28 pm

    Great post! Smiling and being kind are the best things we can do.

    • February 5, 2017 at 7:44 am

      I recently decided to be pleasant with virtually everyone I meet face to face, even if they’re cranky with me. I won’t tell anyone else they must, because I trust people to do what’s best with them where they’re at, but … we are almost all of us so distressed and tense, moving consistently faster than we were ever supposed to, that I want to do what little bit I can to take the load off. Even if it’s just a smile.

      Some days I’ll do better than others. I’m human. Some folks–especially those who threaten or menace others–will get the kind of response warranted by their behavior at the moment. But, by and large, I notice shoulders and faces relax when I show kindness. In this world of slight but ever-present hostility, it’s remarkable how much good can be worked by taking small actions to show others you see and acknowledge their humanity. ♥

  4. February 4, 2017 at 6:11 am

    You’re not supposed to look at/ smile at a women in a hijab? Oh that is just utter nonsense. Of course, we need to keep on smiling at women dressed in hijabs, and women not dressed in hijabs. If our male “leaders” don’t know how to lead the way, we women with common sense and good manners will. Honestly, I never heard such a thing…

    • February 5, 2017 at 7:52 am

      What’s wild about that is that this friend is well read and otherwise taught me to challenge my own assumptions! I wish I could rewind to that conversation and ask him where he got that idea. I wonder if it wasn’t from his own aversion to interacting with most people, which he then interpreted–in this case–as something he’d read somewhere.

      • February 5, 2017 at 8:00 am

        Interesting analysis of what might have prompted this man to say what he said. We all rationalize in our own ways.

        • February 5, 2017 at 8:06 am

          In any case, I’m glad he said this extremely uncharacteristic thing and that we then discussed it (however briefly). But for that, I wouldn’t have had that additional lens through which to view and remember to respond to events now. Small kindnesses can mean so much.

  5. February 5, 2017 at 4:47 am

    Islam has been taken in a wrong way. Islam is the religion of peace, and each muslim, who believes in God and respects the Kur’an, will always smile back. There is one sentence very often used in Islam “The smile is also a good deed”. Sometimes we do not realize that we could make someone’s day better by doing that simple thing.

    • February 5, 2017 at 7:53 am

      These simple things have such power. I actually have a quote on my cube wall to the effect that between two kinds of power–that derived by force & that by love–the latter is much, much more powerful. I believe it.

  6. February 6, 2017 at 2:21 am

    This was a lovely read. I’m a Muslim woman myself, and love it how open minded people like you personally connect with other people instead if relying upon the opnions of the others.

    • February 8, 2017 at 6:48 pm

      When I was growing up, my siblings and I were often teased for not knowing the “right” rules. Now that I’m an adult, I’m so, so glad I grew up learning not-the-right ones. These are better, and more humane, and I’m glad to walk among those who live these better ones. ♥

  7. February 8, 2017 at 11:16 am

    This is how I try to greet everyone. And you’re right – it is hard sometimes to overcome what we are taught about what we are seeing. But everyone can use a smile. Sometimes it might be the only one someone gets that day. How selfish would it be to keep it to yourself?

    • February 8, 2017 at 6:50 pm

      For a while, I breathed fire on anyone who said I must be kind, or courteous, or smile. I might still have that reaction if someone tried to demand it from me, but … over the last few months, I’ve seen how deeply we’re disconnected from each other, and how much suffering that causes. I don’t want to be part of that.

      (This is easier to remember face to face than online, somehow! I’m trying, though!!!)

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