One of my favorite birthday presents last October was a canvas tote bag with the word "smile" in Sri Chinmoy's elegant handwriting with one of his distinctive soul bird drawings next to it.
I immediately started using it as my handbag and it was such a perfect gift since some affectionately (or not) call me a bag lady since I typically tote around several bags of food, water, camera, books, etc. as part of my daily routine.
I happened to be using this bag as my pocketbook when I went for my twice-a-year teeth cleaning appointment at the dentist. Because I have no dental insurance even though I pay very high health insurance premiums, the expense of these visits tends to find me a little grumpy about them. As I sat down in the dentist chair, I put my Sri Chinmoy canvas tote bag on a chair in the corner of the room. When they announced that they wanted me to get full x-rays despite my memory that at my last visit they said I would not need them, I became grumpy indeed as I imagined their price tag. I grumbled to her about this discrepancy and my unhappiness at hearing this news.
The dental technician might have been legitimately feeling grumpy about me as well by this point. Perhaps with the hidden motivation to change the subject, she commented on how much she liked the design of my tote bag sitting on the chair. I told her it was the artwork of a man named Sri Chinmoy and then her attention turned back to cleaning my teeth.
I looked over at the large word on the bag sitting on the chair. The word "Smile" seemed to somehow exude a cheerful consciousness in its very style and I sheepishly felt the whole thing was rather humorous since my demeanor was a far cry from its message. For in that moment, I was doing anything but smiling and I felt slightly foolish.
The next time I go to the dentist I'll have to try harder to not wear my opinions about high health care costs so openly on my sleeve (or face). Apparently this bag will do more than carry my keys, wallet and cell phone. It will carry a reminder as well that a smile can make the world a brighter place. I make no big promises but it can never hurt to be reminded of this simple yet powerful truth.