Posted 25 June 2006on:
Smile at each other, smile at your wife, smile at your husband, smile at your children, smile at each other ~ it doesn’t matter who it is ~ and that will help you to grow up in greater love for each other. Mother Theresa
Riccie wrote a lovely piece recently which reminded me of this story from Chicken Soup for the Soul.
Antoine Saint-Exupery, the author of The Little Prince was a fighter pilot who fought against the Nazis and was killed in action. Before WWII he fought in the Spanish Civil War against the fascists. He wrote a story based on that experience entitled The Smile (Le Sourire) although it is not clear whether this was a work of fiction or whether, as one would like to believe, it is autobiographical. He said he was captured by the enemy and thrown into a cell. He was sure from the awful treatment he received he would be executed the next day.
“I was sure that I was to be killed. I became terribly nervous and distraught. I fumbled in my pockets to see if there were any cigarettes which had escaped their search. I found one and because of my shaking hands, I could barely get it to my lips. But I had no matches, they had taken those.“I looked through the bars at my jailer. He did not make eye contact with me. After all, one does not make eye contact with a thing, with a corpse. I called out to him, ‘Have you got a light, por favor?’ He looked at me, shrugged, and came over to light my cigarette.
“As he came close and lit the match, his eyes inadvertently locked with mine. At that moment, I smiled. I don’t know why I did that. Perhaps it was nervousness, perhaps it was because, when you get very close, one to another, it is very hard not to smile. In any case, I smiled. In that instant, it was as though a spark jumped across the gap between our two hearts, our two human souls. I know he didn’t want to, but my smile leaped through the bars and generated a smile on his lips too. He lit my cigarette but stayed near, looking at me directly in the eyes and continuing to smile.
“I kept smiling at him, now aware of him as a person and not just as a jailer. And his looking at me seemed to have a new dimension too. ‘Do you have kids?’ he asked.
“Yes, here, here.’ I took out my wallet and nervously fumbled for the pictures of my family. He too took out the pictures of his ninos and began to talk about his plans and hopes for them. My eyes filled with tears. I said that I feared that I’d never see my family again, never have the chance to see them grow up. Tears came to his eyes too.
“Suddenly without another word, he unlocked my cell and silently led me out. Out of the jail, quietly and by back routes, out of the town. There, at the edge of town, he released me. And without another word, he turned back toward the town.
“My life was saved by a smile.”
That unplanned smile made a difference between life and death; it was a moment when two souls recognised each other. Smiles do make a difference. A natural, unaffected smile can brighten up each day; can warm the heart both for the giver and the recipient; can cheer a troubled soul and bring joy all about us…. I know it works for me; I hope it works for you too.