Getting people to smile on demand is a bit tricky. Attempts to get my sizeable family bathed, dressed, and looking plasant for a picture is like medical torture. Just saying the words "family portrait" make me break out in a cold sweat.
When my unenthusiastic family is finally lined up for this mother-initiated activity, I feel great compassion for our frazzled photographer.
"Pull that finger out of your nose," the photographer says. "Would the teenager on the back row take off the sunglasses? Now on the count of three, everybody look at me and say 'pickles.' One, two, three--pickles!"
Why do we want to see ourselves smiling in pictures? Why not just snap a realistic photo of family members milling around showing their true mood at the moment? Because we all look and feel better when we smile.
While insisting others smile can be a cause of great frustration, getting ourselves to smile will always bring us joy.
I remember a time when I was worried about one of my teenage sons. I prayed long and hard asking God to teach me how to love my son. The impression I received was simple: smile. This answer perplexed me. Still, I gave it a try. I began smiling at my son more often. I made an effort to catch his eye and smile at him during breakfast and supper. I noticed myself appreciating him more and becoming keenly aware of his courage in the face of adolescence. I wasn't sure at the time if he noticed, or if it meant anything to him--teenage boys aren't famous for expressing tender emotions. Some time later I received a letter from this son, who had become an adult:
"Dear Mom, thank you for smiling at me. When I was making my most difficult decisions, I would see your face in my mind, smiling," he wrote. "I knew you loved me, and it made all the difference."