“Every time you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing.”

-Mother Teresa

 A genuine smile from one of our kiddos is the best gift in the world. I could never receive a thank you more sincere than seeing one of them smiling a heartfelt smile targeted right at me. I feel beyond blessed. To see just one of them smile makes any amount of struggle or time, or energy spent to build what we have in Kenya all worth it. When I see their joy, I am reminded what it is all for.

Whenever I am in Kenya, I spend quite a lot of time with our kiddos. We play, we do homework, we read, we talk, we laugh, and sometimes there are tears. Many of the most cherished moments of my life come from this time with them.

 When you have a group of 17 kids of all ages in one house there are a lot of moments of chaos. Everybody has their own things going on, different games, or coloring or talking and giggling. There is never a dull moment.

 In the midst of all the madness these little cuties give me my greatest moments of joy through this small gesture. Many of them will search me out to look me right in the eye and smile the sweetest little smile—just to show me love and get it in return. With each one of them it is like our little secret, our moment to connect, just between us... They will just stop, smile from their heart and connect with me. We share our little moment in time.  It is as special as it is brief—and then they just continue with whatever they were doing. I absolutely love it. It is just pure heart-opening goodness, a genuine exchange of love.

 The same thing can happen with adults that I am close to or even with strangers. A genuine smile is an incredible communicator—especially for two people that do not speak the same language. Sometimes words are overrated and can get in the way of what we really want to “say.” In this situation a smile can provide an opportunity to communicate things that no amount of words can. It transcends the language barrier.

Someone’s eyes and smile can show things like love and gratitude far greater than words can—and when you are literally at a loss for words, you have to dig a little deeper to really communicate non-verbally. Because like one of my favorite childhood songs tells us:

 “There is just one moon and one golden sun

And a smile means friendship to everyone.

There’s so much that we share

That it is time we’re aware

It’s a Small World after all...”

My best friend in Kenya, Christine (everyone calls her Nyarkisumu) is one of the dearest people in the world to me.  Every day I’ve spent in Sirembe, Kenya going back to 2007 is a day I’ve spent with her. I love her with all of my heart, in fact we tell each other that often. However, she speaks Luo and I speak English. Over time we have learned bits and pieces of each other’s “mother tongue” and our conversational range has expanded.  However, the bulk of our “conversations” over the years have consisted of big and fantastic hugs, laughter and smiles, and both of us saying in Luo and English—“Aheri” (I love you) or “You are my friend” or “My sister.” Nyarkisumu tells me all of the time that she loves me from her heart or from her insides. She uses hand motions and gestures to get it across. It is really awesome. 

 

                                                                      Me and Christine (Nyarkisumu)

                                                                      Me and Christine (Nyarkisumu)

 She has gone above and beyond for me on many occasions and I try to do the same for her. Our mutual love, friendship and respect are constant and it has been this way for years. In fact, it gets stronger every time that I go back. It is a very unique relationship in my life that I cherish deeply. Although our words are limited we can meet eyes and smile—then we know all we need to know.

We all can connect through this small, yet heart-felt gesture. Give someone the gift of a smile, from your whole being and 9 times out 10 you will get it right back. As you make an effort to connect to others—you will find that it really is just a small world after all.

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