The million-dollar smile

By Mary Kaye Falcony

Connecting Faith and Life

We have all heard the saying before “you have a million-dollar smile;” and I think, for the most part, we all have an understanding of what that means or more precisely know what that looks like. I recently experienced a smile for me that can only be described as priceless.

That weekend was the first time that my husband and I, while running errands, ventured into establishments that no longer required face masks. For me, it was hard not to stare at the unmasked faces I encountered. I was unexpectedly intrigued by facial expressions and seeing a face in its entirety. As I waited for my husband to check out at CVS, I glanced over his shoulder to see the line behind him. In doing so, I inadvertently made eye contact with a young man waiting. My natural reaction was to smile; but when he smiled back, the emotion I experienced was so intense it nearly brought me to tears. I quickly dismissed this reaction; but as the day went on, my mind found its way back to that encounter, and I began wondering why that smile was important and the deeper meaning it might hold for me.

For me, the smile of that stranger spoke of the resilience, strength and hope of every man, woman and child who journeyed through a year of isolation and uncertainty. They have made it through to the other side, each with their story to tell. Each story holds elements of pain and suffering in varying degrees. And although no one wants pain and suffering to enter their life, our Catholic tradition speaks of the value and the good that may come from something that we hope to avoid. 

For whatever reason, this is the realization that made itself present to me as I thought of that young man and his smile. Maybe, since we all have had the shared experience of the pandemic, as a collective body and as individuals we have gained valuable insights about our humanity and who we need to be for one another. 

My hope, my prayer for all of us, is that we have become better people – more Christ-like; that we will be more empathetic, more compassionate, more accepting and kinder to one another.  In the pain and suffering, for me, there has also been God’s presence and revelation. I hope this has been true of your journey as well.

As we move forward, maybe it is important first to look back and ask ourselves what we have gained through this experience. What has been revealed? And in light of those answers begin moving into the future.