If you ever have the privilege of serving the sick, disabled, and suffering in Lourdes, France, you received this pearl of wisdom during your training: “smile!”
Lourdes, a Catholic pilgrimage site, welcomes those searching for peace. From the poor in spirit to the poor in health, these searchers need the help of volunteers to bathe in the miraculous waters from the grotto, and to process in the prayer experiences.
Given the impact this holy space has on past wanderers, people gather from all of the world, bring different languages to this small town on the foot of the Pyrenees Mountains.
Those who volunteer may lack the communication skills to translate and understand those whom they accompany. All they can do is smile.
It has been seven years since I served in Lourdes. In a way, I go back there each spring as we prepare our students to serve after the semester. I learn from them and what they bring to the water that needs healing and peace.
In recent days, I have been reminded of the value of a smile in watching my daughter. All she does is smile.
She wakes up smiling, and keeps it going throughout the day. When she sees a familiar or strange face, she smiles. When she sees her favorite toy or her meal being prepare, a smile soon takes over her angelic face.
I am conscious of her spirit, and its innocence. I am aware of her personality, her way of loving and being. There is a certain amount of socialization that occurs as a result of living as a family, but I am trying, even at such a young age, to watch her live as she was created to live.
For over a year, she lives with a smile. Each encounter is a important as the last, and she brightens up the room she is crawling around and destroying.
From the village of Lourdes to my living room, the reminder to smile provides a simple but important lesson. How can I, how can you, smile more? How can we look with wonder in the way a pilgrim does in prayer and as a baby does when she sees a loved one?
I find the answer is in the recognition of God’s beauty. It is in the simplistic need for love, and the openness to accept that love, only to give it right back.
So, in all we have to do this day, let’s remember to smile. It may just make the greatest difference in someone’s life on this precious day.