“Smile and the world smiles with you,” my sixth grade teacher wrote to me. I still have her note in a box of childhood memorabilia. “Don’t ever lose your smile,” she said.
Cheerfulness, positivity, optimism, humor are personality traits of mine evident even as a child. But, depression is also something in my family, and at various times in my life, I’ve battled it, too. I’m well acquainted with the darkness of pessimism, worry, and fear. As a teen and young adult, I was most definitely dogged by depressive tendencies and many phobias. I could have easily followed that path, but I determined to cultivate cheerfulness and optimism instead. Please don’t misunderstand. I am not inferring depression is merely a matter of choice. I understand the clinical side of it, and that’s something else altogether. I’m referring to a crossroad I came to for myself. The point being I’m not cheerful just because it’s my personality. Intentionality is also involved. I recognized that I could either have a positive or a negative outlook, and it was up to me to follow one path or the other.
I love to use smiley faces and smiling emoji. Recognizing that smileys are considered unprofessional, I abstain from using them when it’s inappropriate. I wish I could use smileys everywhere on practically everything. It’s the emblem of who I am. My email address begins with writingsmiles, and my closing signature is “Smiles, Sara,” just because that’s me.
People often describe a cheerful person as having a sunny disposition. I can still see myself at three or four years old, sitting on the backyard swing set, happy as a clam, singing out, “Jesus wants me for a sunbeam, to shine for him each day... A sunbeam, a sunbeam, I’ll be a sunbeam for him.” A website name containing sunshine or sunlight seems quite fitting for me, don’t you think?
Life is not all sunshine and smiling emoji and it would be ridiculous to make any such claim. The darkest time of my life was losing my daughter. No amount of smiley faces fixes that. There isn’t enough sunshine on the planet to make that cloud go away. But I persist. Through the rain of tears, through the storms of turbulent emotions, through the dark days, I choose to believe in sunshine. I choose to believe that life can still be good, that God’s not finished with me yet, that there’s a purpose in me still being here on this earth. I stick smiley faces on the very thing that makes me weep in defiance of its power over me. And, that’s how I survive. That’s my secret. That’s my strength. I believe in the goodness of God in the land of the living.