Faith, Life

My Simple Superpower

Smile by Jason Csizmadi on flickr

You’d never guess it if I kept it hidden, but I’ve got a Superpower.

With the slightest effort, I can transform myself.  With a tiny bit more effort, I can transform the world around me.

Can you guess what my Superpower is?

Give up?

It’s my smile.

 

Now, my smile isn’t the straightest around.  It’s not the brightest.  It’s not the whitest.  The corners of my mouth don’t curl adorably upwards – when I smile, I just kind of end up with a wider mouth with thinner lips.  My full cheeks swell out and my small eyes squeeze smaller.  You wouldn’t think it would work for me; it’s decidedly not the stuff of supermodels.

And yet…

And yet, without the whiteness or the brightness or the dazzle or the glamour, my smile transforms me.

I cannot count the number of times people have commented on this.

Friends laugh about how constant my smile is, in spite of all the crazy in my life – the noise and mess and delight of having four little boys, travelling and moving, etc…  Those I haven’t met yet but who’ve seen me at school have referred to me as ‘the girl who’s always smiling’ or ‘the smiley one’.  Total strangers have stopped me in the street to remark on my smile.

And I can say this entirely without vanity, because I know that the reason people notice me smiling is not because of how it makes me look – but because of how it makes them feel.

In this distracted, busy, hectic world, we are simultaneously over-connected and not connected at all.  We know everything about everybody but we don’t know each other’s hearts.  I could document my friends’ meals and outings, name their children, remember their birthdays and anniversaries, and yet be completely oblivious to their personal triumphs and struggles.  I could walk past a thousand people in the city centre and never truly see a single one of them.  So I have to choose to connect; I have to consciously acknowledge other people with eye contact and a smile, or else I risk passing them by without reminding them that they matter.  And we all need to be reminded that we matter.

Yes, my smile transforms me.  But the thing that you might not know is this: so does yours.

You have a Superpower, too – the power to transform yourself, and the power to transform the world around you.

A truly warm smile is simply an outward sign of the joy contained within.  I believe that this joy – God’s gift, freely-given – is meant to be shared.  I see smiling as a way of sharing my heart with others – and, more importantly, a way of sharing God’s heart for them.  Quite simply, if there is anything whatsoever remarkable about my smile, it is that God’s love for others can shine through it.

So smile, and spread the joy (it is truly contagious).  Show the people around you that they matter.

Transform the world with your smile.

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Family Harmony, Parenting

Lost In The Shuffle

Boys' gifts

Getting the three schoolboys out the door in the mornings is a frantic operation.

“Where’s your lunch?”

“Did you sign my planner?”

“Find your shoes”

“Is it the weekend?”

“What do you think?”

“Is there a note in my lunchbox?”

“Yes.  Shoes, please.”

“I don’t have something for show-and-tell!”

“Why aren’t you wearing shoes?”

“Are we late?”

“Shoes!”

“I did a double-knot…”

“Who didn’t grab their lunch?”

“Is my note in it?”

“Where’s my kiss?”

And if my Mum’s around, you can add a whole lot of grand proclamations about the weather (“It’s going to be -1 after lunch!”) and queries about the appropriateness of everyone’s clothing for the prophesied forecast – as if somehow we might have mistaken the sunshine outside for a leap into summer straight from mid-winter – making for even more clamour and debate.

There’s so much hurly-burly hustle during the send-off that by the time they’re out the door and D. and I have waved them off with a flurry of blown kisses and ‘love’ signs I wouldn’t be entirely surprised to find one of them still standing there just inside the door, having missed the ride/walk to school.  Sometimes, when I pass the big boys’ bedroom and see a lump under the sheets, I wonder if maybe someone got missed in the shuffle.

Every family I know with four or more kids has a story about losing one or another child during an outing – well, not us; but it’s early days yet for us as a family of six and I know that our time will come.  My goddaughter (the youngest of four) was once left behind on a soccer field when the children were being ferried home separately by their parents. Other friends have recounted their stories of that panicked moment when they’ve been away from home and they’ve suddenly looked down and realized that one of their kids wasn’t with them. It has become something of a legend in West’s family how, at age three, he (the third of four children) ventured on a solo journey from home to fetch his older sister from a friend’s house several blocks (and a number of street-crossings) away; my mother-in-law, apparently, only realized he was missing when she received a phone call from the friend’s Mum asking how he had got there.

That’s one of the challenges of having a big family, in fact – it can be easy for someone to get missed in the shuffle.  Sometimes it’s just because things are just crazy with so many people talking and negotiating and sharing and arguing at once – I know that at times like this our youngest (being a pre-verbal small person) can feel rather neglected.  Our C. (a kindergartener) has cause to feel left out, too – mostly when the bigger boys have older-kid stuff on the go, like music practices, homework, or playing games that are too sophisticated for a little brother.  B. can be super-sensitive, and he feels ignored whenever the focus is on anyone other than himself (that’s a whole other topic – watch this space), so his brothers’ birthdays and other celebrations aren’t easy for him.  And A. can sometimes be so acquiescent to his brothers’ demands that he doesn’t really get a say or have a chance to figure out what it is that he really wants in any given situation; so he can get a bit lost in the shuffle, as well.

So we try to give them one-on-one time.  We try to have family meetings where we each say something nice about all the other people.  We try to find little ways of acknowledging the boys (and each other), and having them acknowledge one another.

It’s always a challenge to give our children a reason to feel special and prevent them from feeling that they might be forgotten on the periphery.  This past Christmas, we found a pretty cool way of doing just that.  Instead of adding to the pile of gifts under the tree (we have such a generous family) and wrapping things up for each boy to give to his brothers, we encouraged them to find an activity they could share one-on-one – something that their brother (rather than themselves) would especially like to do.  In other words, they gave each other ‘presence,’ not presents.  We’re hoping that this will help create common experiences and memories, too, that will bind them to one another when sibling rivalry threatens the harmony of our household (as it does from time to time).

We can all sometimes feel a bit lost in the shuffle – our plans, our hopes, our dreams, can be waylaid in the busyness of life – so it helps if the people we love do what it takes to make sure that we don’t stay on the periphery for long.

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