Smiles are free: Spread a little joy


By The Rev. Jeremy Myers

I don’t often pay much attention to menus at fast food restaurants.

I am a creature of habit and am quite content ordering the same thing every time I frequent a familiar establishment. If I do look at the menu, it is often just a quick glance to confirm that my preferred culinary delicacies are still available before I order.

Most of us are all too aware that the term “fast food” is somewhat of a misnomer. Oftentimes, fast food restaurants are not fast, and the fare they offer is only food in the academic sense, meaning it can be consumed.

As has been noted, however, when you know what you want, you know what you want. In those moments when what I want requires me to wait, I will occupy myself and attempt to contain my annoyance by perusing the menu to see what new items are available. The most interesting item I’ve ever encountered was on a menu board at a McDonald’s in the middle of nowhere Canada.

I had just emerged from the wilderness with several other hungry campers. Having just spent a week eating rehydrated meals, I was very much looking forward to what is arguably the most American of all foods, a Big Mac. Due to the large number of people in our group, I knew it was going to be awhile before it was my turn to order, so I read through the menu.

As I came to the end, right underneath the dessert options in big bold letters it read, “Smiles are free!” I found this addition to be incredibly entertaining and clever and decided I would order one or two of these delights when I reached the counter, thus sharing my joy with the cashier.

I could barely contain my excitement as I approached the counter. The cashier clearly did not share my jovial sense of expectation as our encounter began. I placed my standard order and ended by saying, “…and I’d like two smiles with that, please.”

I then stood smiling, patiently waiting to pay for my order and to receive what was coming to me. If looks could kill, that moment would have been my last. The young woman asked if I was serious. I assured her I was and commenced smiling again. She looked up to the ceiling, muttered something in French (both literally and figuratively, I’m sure), then looked me in the eyes and offered two half-hearted smiles.

I made a strong effort to control my laughter and was doing a fine job until another cashier to the right who had been watching this whole scene unfold doubled over in laughter. Other workers began asking what was going on, and before long, the whole store was laughing along, my salty server included.

She thanked me for the laugh and loudly announced, “Smiles for everyone. This guy is buying.” I quickly reminded her that according to the menu, smiles were free.

There is power in a kind word, a friendly handshake, a warm hug or even something as simple as a smile. The quality and outcome of our interactions are often the product of the attitudes we bring to them.

While we may have no control over the circumstances that surround us, we are the only ones who have control over the way we function within them. I’m not a “pie-in-the-sky” idealist. I understand we will face incredibly difficult situations and equally difficult people at times in our lives.

A kind heart, good intentions and a positive disposition won’t always win the day. But if we enter any given situation with a frown on our face, a chip on our shoulder and/or the expectation of a negative experience, we are almost certain to increase the odds of that outcome. We certainly do nothing to improve the situation for ourselves or others.

In Philippians, Paul encourages us, “Rejoice in the Lord always.” In our modern English, rejoice means to express joy. If we go back further, though, we learn the word not only points to our expression but to what we cause.

In days gone by, the word literally meant “cause to joy.” To rejoice then is to inspire joy in others. Joy is truly contagious. By adopting a joyful attitude and allowing it to influence our interactions with others, we shine a little light into the darkness. We become a “cause to joy.”

As I learned from a menu at Canadian McDonald’s, smiles are free and a small kindness can make a big difference.

The Rev. Jeremy Myers is the lead pastor of First Baptist Church in Seymour. Read his blog at Send comments to [email protected].

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