Ahh, I thought it would be one of those ordinary days and I would be just one of those working in the usual warm temperature in our school. Of course, I was one of those who would nag about the heat but would settle later. However, the warm character of the room seemed to have engrossed many students. Generally speaking, attendance in my class was high. So in about three hours, I had encountered the usual thirty five people. Frankly, I was sort of done in but I had to show a brilliant facade. I tried to wear a smile but it vanished once my mind focused on the essentials during that day. My heart wanted to keep smiling but my facial muscles were saggy.
Then I had the class card of a Filipina student before me and I went straight to her concerns barely remembering to look at her in the face. I had little strength for pleasantries - just get on with the job and finish with it. Or maybe she’s too beautiful to disappoint. Then out of the blue the lady requested me to smile. At first I ignored her. Instead my mind was wondering why she would go beyond the professional curb between us and ask me to do such a personal thing as smile. But even then, I was too exhausted to brood over its ambiguity. I was going to use the little vigor I had left to finish the session. I went back to saying what I was saying - something about the value of right and timely approach. But then the girl, ah yes, the lady repeated herself. Again, I tried to pretend not to hear her but deep within I knew she was right and she had caught me off-guard. How could I tell her that I was trying to smile as much as possible and that she had caught me in an unusual moment when over thirty different students, with different needs and concerns to deal with, have almost sapped me of my resolve to always smile?
Like she had planned it out, the young woman started participating dynamically before the whole class and I thought I was off the hook but then midway in her response to the issues raised; she went back to the smile topic. I thought the stares of everyone in the room were all for me. I wanted to step in and give such responses like “Look Miss, I have been teaching all day, and I am through with your hanky-panky. I’ll smile if I want to and spontaneously.” At first I thought that looking directly on her eyes would melt her so I could return the assault. However, the bright sincerity of her pretty face overwhelmed any sting of stare that I could throw. I changed my focus at the center of the class showing control of myself and the situation. Actually I didn’t see anyone; her whole face engulfed my view. Then I recalled an old adage of loving whatever I do so I could be the best I can. I remembered that I have always said to myself that anytime I was tempted to complain about a task or job, then I am through with that task or job and should seek something else to do. Just in that moment, my ego gave way to the realization that beneath my professional drape is a human being who could be fallible. I knew she was right.
Without forcing it, I found myself conceding and smiling. Whether it was at her, at her statement, or at myself, I wasn’t sure but her face lit up and I found myself saying in a nice way – “are you happy now?” Her smile broadened and she gladly said, “Yes I am.” I knew she meant it and I also realized then that the smile meant a lot to her. Interestingly, I was happy about it too. I looked up and realized that many others in the room have been observing what was going on. As my face turned at them, they were all smiling in return. I moved on with the discussion, happy that I did not make a fool of myself before all those observers. But beyond that I realized how good I felt and how much strength I had gained by that momentary experience. It overcame my exhaustion and filled me with a lightness that took me through the rest of the day. What a day!