All I Want For Christmas* Is A Smile. No Need To Wrap It. Just Give It To Me. Actually, I’ll Be Delighted To Get It Any Time Of The Year. P.S. I’ll Be At The Airport And At Target This Afternoon. Maybe Taco Bell Too** And I’ll Be Looking For My Gift.

December 23, 2010

Every time you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing.
• Mother Teresa

Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881), First Earl of Beaconsfield, British prime minister, and novelist, once groused, “It destroys one’s nerves to be amiable all day.” Goodness knows I understand what the Earl was griping about. It is difficult to be cheerful when you’re tired, grumpy, out of sorts, busy, angry, worried, upset, cranky, hungry, disappointed, sad, impatient, frustrated, irritable, or annoyed.

Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.
• Thich Nhat Hanh

When all of your energy is focused on getting through the day, a smile can seem like frosting on the cake of your presence. Nice, but not necessary. After all, isn’t it enough to give us cake? You’re there. You’re doing what you’re supposed to be doing. You’re taking money, serving a Happy Meal®, wrapping presents, preparing an eggnog latte, giving us a fistful of stocking-stuffer-singles for a twenty, unlocking the dressing room, dishing up, checking out, waiting on, listening to, and doing it all while wishing you were somewhere else since you’re running out of time to do whatever it is you’d rather be doing. I get it.

Attempt to be cheerful. Who knows, it might work.
• Ann B. Davis (1994), “Alice’s Unspoken Rules,” Alice’s Brady Bunch Cookbook

I get it, but I am disappointed when I don’t get a smile with my service. Perhaps I am expecting too much, but if you’re wondering what you can give someone that doesn’t cost anything except a bit of muscular and emotional effort, give a smile. And to everyone who’s generously distributed smiles this season, including those directed my way, many thanks. I’ve tried to pass them along.

Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.
• Leo Buscaglia

Smiles matter. I am aware that this sounds like the very best of the worst kind of mindless happytalk. It’s a cliché, and there are plenty of people out there with good reason not to smile. I know. But whether I’m in a restaurant or a grocery store or a gas station or an office building—or teaching a class—the attitude of the people I encounter matters.

What sunshine is to flowers, smiles are to humanity. They are trifles, to be sure; but, scattered along life’s pathway, the good they do is inconceivable.
• Joseph Addision

If I’m feeling grumpy myself, a smile reminds me to mind my manners and return it. If I’m disheartened or sad or overwhelmed, a smile reminds me that these feelings will pass and my own smiles will return. If I’m eating a meal, a smile makes the food taste better. If I’m encountering bureaucratic intransigence, a smile increases my patience. If the person in front of me is holding up the line while hunting frantically through purse or pockets or wallet for whatever it is s/he needs to finish checking out, a smile boosts my tolerance. Smiles matter.

There is not a soul who does not have to beg alms of another, either a smile, a handshake, or a fond eye.
• John Dalberg-Acton, (1834-1902), First Lord Acton, author, historian, politician

If you’re wondering what you can give others at any time of the year, give them your smile. Think of it as community service, a volunteer activity you become part of by joining a club with no meetings and no dues whose sole mission is to spread a bit of cheer and good will. Be a grin philanthropist and give freely.

If someone is too tired to give a you a smile, leave one of your own, because no one needs a smile as much as those who have none to give.
• Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch

* This season there are many who tentatively wish me a “Merry Christmas,” recognizing that there are those who celebrate other—or even no—festivities. My title, however, references a holiday song written by Don Gardner (1946), “All I Want For Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth,” a tune that’s been parodied many times, including in the 1960s when Dora Bryan sang “All I Want For Christmas Is The Beatles.” Now, thanks to iTunes, she can have them.

** The return of the bean tostada makes me smile. It was my favorite high school off-campus lunch. Add a bean burrito and I was ready to embarrass myself in the afternoon. I am quite fond of the musical fruit.



  1. A quote from Alice’s Brady Bunch Cookbook is awesome. That alone is enough to make me smile.

    Some of my favorite quotes on smiles:

    Shakespeare in Othello: “The robbed that smiles, steals something from the thief.”

    This quote has always stuck with me. It reminds me that my happiness is my responsibility and no one can steal it from me unless I let them.

    Proverb: “All people smile in the same language.”

    Smiling is one of the few expressions that is universal. To me, that is a powerful concept.

    • Othello quotation is just what I needed! Thanks for all of the smiley stuff! W-OZ

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