Over the past six months, I have not only been traveling to points in Europe and Central America but also using these opportunities to discern the next phase of my life. Specifically, I am discerning where my heart is guiding me to use and share my leadership skills and experiences. Most recently I returned to Zacapa, Guatemala on an eight-day service/mission trip with my local church and an organization called Hearts in Motion. The date of departure was exactly five months after my arrival back in the states from my first service trip to Guatemala in late July 2014.
As I reflect on this most recent trip, I am consistently reminded about the importance of a smile. During both Guatemalan trips, we were given a service journal which included daily reflections and challenges. Our very first challenge, at the start of the week, was to smile. As Mother Teresa said, “Every time you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing.” A simple smile is all that it takes to show another that you care, that you respect them for the human person they are. Mother Teresa also said, “The world would be a much better place if everyone smiled more. So smile, be cheerful, be joyous that God loves you.” You have all probably shared in the experience of receiving or giving a smile, especially in a dark time.
However, my question is, “What truly makes you smile?” Throughout the course of my experiences in Guatemala, the act of a simple smile gave me a new perspective. I realized not only the joy it brings to others but also how it can deepen our inner joy and help us to discover our true passions in life. Besides sharing a smile with those you pass by, what else brings a smile to your face? What actions, stories, interests and loves bring that smile out of you?
As I have shared my experiences of the past several months with old friends and new, I am amazed by the passion and inner joy these stories bring out in me. My inner smile radiates happiness to everyone around me. Recognizing how this simple smile radiates so much joy in my heart, I more clearly understand who I am and what drives me.
So what drives you? Are you just going through the motions of your day or are you embracing your passions? I challenge you to take a step back and uncover what makes your heart smile and find those passions in your life. Recognizing life’s passions provide each of us a deeper understanding of who we are and where our happiness lies. It gives us the energy to pick up each morning and continue making a meaningful difference in our world.
Most of you have many accomplishments and have made a difference in the lives of others. You have had an impact on countless individuals and have had amazing experiences that come from a driving passion that brings a smile to your face and a smile on the faces of others. It starts with a smile, an understanding of our passions, and then leads to us stepping out of our comfort zone to embrace and embark on a new journey.
During my New Year’s trip to Guatemala, we served alongside several physical therapists (PT) and PT students. One of the PTs I was privileged to meet was a young man, Efosa Guobadia. Efosa is on an eight-month journey across the world educating others on the benefits of PT while leading and serving in a variety of communities. You can tell from the smile on his face that he has an amazing passion for physical therapy as well as teaching and leading others to a fuller understanding of PT and how it manifests itself in the world. He wrote a poem titled I Lead by Serving, and I Serve to Lead in which he shares why he is on this eight-month journey. I encourage you to go check it out.
A simple smile means so much more than just an expression on your face. It not only brings happiness to those around you, but it also gives you insight into your passions, which in turn leads you to amazing adventures making a difference in our world. Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk, once said, “Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.” My hope is that you too will find that inner joy and passion that makes your heart smile as you lead and serve others.