Some people collect stamps. My mother collects people. They don’t have to be rare or unique. She finds beauty in the seemingly mangled as much as the pristine.
As a kid, going to the store with my mother was the last thing I wanted to do. While strangers were putting groceries in their carts, mommy was listening to their stories, viewing their wallet size photos – smiling and laughing a lot. In fact, it irritated me that mommy was always smiling.
Dottie Lifford, my mother, had lost both parents to tuberculosis by time she was seven. Then she was passed around between relatives, attending a new school with each new address. She lost her firstborn to a teenage driver who turned a corner while my 6-year-old sister Karen was still in the crosswalk. Life had not been easy for Dottie, but you couldn’t tell that from her smile.
As it turns out, neuroscience explains, smiles are more than just a pleasantry, or a ploy to hide a darker truth. Real smiles create calm, communicate safety to strangers, boost the immune system, and create a lighter, better mood. I think they must also affect one’s perspective.
My mother was ahead of the positive psychology curve, proving what I’ve always believed: My mom knows everything!