Just One Smile

“I have much to write you, but I do not want to do so with pen and ink. I hope to see you soon, and we will talk face to face.”

3 John 1:13-14

I mentioned in my previous writings about how I am not only a people watcher, but I am a noticer of people. What does it mean to be a noticer? Andy Andrews wrote an entire book devoted to this topic, simply titled, “The Noticer.”  I understand that all people are different and noticing may not come natural to everyone. That’s ok. Everyone, however, is capable of becoming a noticer, and a good one at that.  It is a good skill to develop and it would be well worth the time and energy to practice “noticing” others. I promise you it will improve the quality of your relationships.

Everyone wants to be noticed. Generally speaking, most people want people to pay attention to them. Some people enjoy the center stage or spotlight more than others, but everyone wants someone to pay attention. When someone knows things or makes little observations about you, it makes you feel special. It communicates to the one being noticed that they matter, you care enough, to pick up on the little details. How special…when it is sincere and from the heart.

“You can always hear somebody’s heart if you listen.”

~Joyce Meyer

I read this quote from Joyce Meyer this past week. When I read it I knew I could take it even a step further…

Sometimes you have to probe for someone’s heart so you CAN listen.

People are guarded. This truth is fairly universal. That is why the Bible tells us to have faith like little children. Children are still innocent and haven’t had a lot of heartache, compared to adults. They are wide-eyed and optimistic. They are open. They are beautiful. Unfortunately, as we age, life does offer it’s share of tough times and hard blows…taken by our hearts. Every wound a heart endures only causes the heart to crust over a bit and develop a callous. The callous, ever so slightly, makes us a little harder, a little more aloof…distancing our vulnerabilities from others. It is the subconscious mind’s way of protecting ourselves from further heartache or pain. As we age we become less and less open and vulnerable with others. We put on our “life is great” mask and tell everyone everything is “fine” when they ask. Many people have things that weigh on them over time and are so suppressed even they are not aware of how guarded they have become. If you are at all identifying with anything I am saying…It’s ok. You are not alone. Many people have very well protected comfort zones. I guess the first step to becoming an effective noticer is to first notice your self. I know it’s what I had to do.

I want to share two quick stories about noticing in action. Both stories have to do with a smile…this is purely coincidence on my part, but then I wonder, “is it?” Though I selected both stories before realizing they both involved a smile, I wondered, “How many people misunderstand or make a judgment about someone because of a smile or lack of a smile?’ I tell you, it happens all the time.

The first story is my own. It happened at church, maybe 3 ½ years ago…2009 I guess. There was a woman at church I hadn’t seen before. The church I was attending was a decent size church. It would be easy to not know everyone or miss a face from Sunday to Sunday depending on where one sat. This gal was sitting in the last row or two for several weeks. I did not know her. So, the first Sunday I saw her I went to say hello and I introduced myself. Maybe she was brand new and didn’t seem to know anyone. She was not smiling. I walked up, smiled and made the introduction. She shook my hand and looked at me, but said nothing…not a word. No smile. It would only be natural feel a bit shut down and walk away defeated, vowing not to say hello again. But that wasn’t the choice I made. I admit, I was a bit puzzled and had many questions about her somewhat strange reaction to me.

I saw her again the next Sunday. Once again, sitting in the very back, all alone…no smile. I went up to her again, said hello and gave her a big smile. Again, she shook my hand and acknowledged me, but no response or smile. Never even told me her name. I was really puzzled now. Maybe she didn’t speak English, but no smile? A smile is a universal communicator. We don’t have to speak the same language to communicate friendliness. I was not discouraged. Instead, I made a pact with myself to win her over! I was going to say hello to her every single week, regardless of whether or not she ever responded. Do you know what happened? She still never smiled or spoke, but I began to notice that she would seem to look forward to my coming over and saying hello. I could tell by her body language that she liked it. Sometimes I even saw her looking for me. This made me happy. I had noticed also that not many people said hello to her other than myself. Most likely for the same reason I kept saying hello. Then, I got my answer…

I went to a ladies event on a Friday night at the church. It was a small group, more intimate than a church service. The woman had come with a few of her friends. I happened to be sitting right in front of her at this event. The Pastor’s wife said something funny and EVERYONE smiled. You better believe I glanced over my shoulder to see if my friend was smiling, too. SHE WAS! She smiled a big, beautiful smile all across her face. Then, she quickly covered her mouth with her hand. See, my new friend at church who brought me so many questions, had many teeth missing. I got my answer. She was self conscious about the fact that she was missing teeth to the point that it hindered her from stepping out and reaching out. She was confined by her smile, or lack of one. I’m sure many people thought her unfriendly or even rude…making minimal effort to continue saying hello after the first appearance of rejection. How sad. We need to take the time to notice. People have so many reasons why they do the things they do or behave the way they behave. We need to step outside our own perspective and try to notice theirs.

My second story is that of a friend. She shared this story with me at the beginning of this year (2012) and I loved it! I asked her for permission to share it…thank you my friend! I knew you’d say yes!

This friend of mine is a noticer for sure! She and her husband are amazing people. They truly invest in others and give back to their community. However, they are never showy or extravagant with their generosity, but rather demure and quaint about it. I LOVE IT!

With this being said, they are a big football family. Their boys play high school ball and their father is a football coach. One of their sons had a friend who they help out so he can play ball, too. Things like helping with expenses of the sport and all. Ok, great, lots of people do things like that, right? Well, they notice even the smallest details. This particular boy spends a lot of time at their home and they know him pretty well. The wife in the family (my friend)…we will call her “Gina”. Gina noticed that the young man seemed to lack confidence and it was affecting him on the playing field also, despite his giftedness as an athlete. Gina couldn’t put her finger on it, but something was affecting his confidence. “What was it?”, she would think to herself.  After observing and wondering for a while, she realized he didn’t smile much. He had a great smile, so she couldn’t really nail in her mind the issue. However, she did notice his teeth were grown a little bit crooked. Gina shared with me, his teeth were not really all that crooked, but after much observation on her part, she was sure this was his issue. He was self-conscious and losing self confidence because of his smile. Gina called the boys mother and inquired. See, Gina and her husband were very interested in paying for him to have braces should this be the case. They knew the family couldn’t really afford braces and they wanted to help this boy overcome his confidence break down.

After making the effort to investigate, Gina did receive confirmation that the young man was wishing his smile were better. Gina got permission from the mother to make the offer for braces and take care of all the details. Can you imagine how overwhelmed that sweet Mama was to have Gina call and make such an offer? Wonderful! When I confirmed with my friend this last week if I could share this story, she agreed and made sure to tell me again…he rarely smiled before but he smiles all the time now and his confidence went through the roof! What a difference a smile can make. What a difference my friend Gina made in the life of a young man. She first cared enough to notice.

Imagine all the little details of our lives and the lives of others and circumstances all around us. Everyone has a story. Everyone has many, many stories, the events of our lives that shape us into who we are and who we will become. Let me give you a quick analogy for noticing.

Have you ever heard of a widow’s peak or widow’s watch? It is a piece of architecture found on homes built in the Northern parts of North America in the 19th century. The name references their purpose to give wives a view of the sea so they could watch for the return of their mariner husbands, who were frequently lost at sea, thus making them a widow. A noticer is like a woman or widow on watch over the sea. Though I have never seen a widow’s watch in person, I can only imagine the view. Seated in such a prime position, one could be on the watch and see what others could not. Not just ships returning from the deep, but also storms on the horizon. Optimal view. A “seer” (as the Bible calls them. Someone who is a noticer of spiritual things) or “noticer” as Andy Andrews calls it, is someone to perceives, discerns, observes things that others do not. Maybe even detecting them before they occur. It is a source of wisdom I believe. I know for me this skill or gift from God has enabled me time and time again to make a difference for my children as I can detect things before they occur or see what is not spoken.

Becoming a noticer is sometimes making the effort to probe another’s heart, to love people more deeply than just the surface hello. It truly is the place where trust can begin. It is not for the faint hearted for it will require sacrifice, patience and tender care on your part. But the fruit of the blessings and the joy it brings overwhelms my heart. I pray it could do so for you as well. Take the first step to become a noticer...

...It all can begin with




“Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the saints.”

Philemon 1:7


Be a refresher of man. Be a noticer of people. You can do it!