When You’re Smiling

If you get a free moment today, smile. But don’t do it with your face. Try smiling with your heart.

Yes. I realize what I just said seems very stupid. It almost sounds like something a weirdo hippie therapist would say after an hour of hand-puppet therapy out in his yurt. “Alright everybody, let’s hold hands in a circle and smile in our big ole hearts.”

But I’m being serious. Close your eyes and give it a whirl. Smile with your chest region. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

See? You felt it, didn’t you? That faint fluttery thing happening in your chest. Kind of cool, huh? Great, now I’d like us all to hold hands in a circle and start chanting in Pig Latin.

No, I’m only kidding.

I can’t take credit for this heart smiling thing. An old man used to tell me this. He was a friend of mine. In some ways, he acted like a father to me after my father died. He was white-haired and a lot older than my father.

Alzheimer’s eventually took him from the world. When the disease hit, it moved fast. Pretty soon he didn’t know who I was.

The last time I saw him, he kept calling me Lucinda. I don’t know who Lucinda is, but I will say this: Lucinda must be a very handsome man.

My friend was the first one to tell me, “Smile with your heart.” Truthfully, I thought it was pretty dumb. I didn’t fully appreciate his words until I got older.

Come to find out, the phrase didn’t originate with my friend. It comes from an old American song, popular during my pal’s heyday. A song you probably know the words to. The tune is “My Funny Valentine,” written in 1937, back when the whole world was Depressed.

My friend used to tell me stories about life during the Depression. He once told me how he and his brother would go into town to do their shopping. His older brother would create a diversion in the back of a general store while my friend would sneak around and steal food.

This was rural Mississippi, his family had no money and no bread. People did what they had to do. Sometimes he would steal chickens, sometimes bigger items. He did it to keep from starving. His era was one when men and women truly knew sadness.

But anyway, on a much lighter note, back in my friend’s youth, the young people could really cut a rug. They danced in a way that many of us modern youngsters might refer to as “touch dancing.”

Dancing has changed a LOT over the decades. Prior to rock-and-roll dance styles, the popular forms of dance consisted of holding a partner in your arms.

There wasn’t any solo dancing, like the kind you see middle-aged guys do at wedding receptions that have open bars. Seventy-five years ago, if you would have danced the Mashed Potato at a USO dance, they would have called an ambulance.

Back then people swayed with partners to tunes like “Embraceable You,” “Paper Moon,” and “Satin Doll.” And the classic ballad, “My Funny Valentine.”

When my friend was in his twenties, he was at a dance with this girl. The tune was “My Funny Valentine.” The lyrics of this song go:

“My funny Valentine,
“Sweet comic Valentine,
“You make me smile in my heart…”

And right there on the dance floor, the girl told him to smile. She said, “Smile with your heart, like it says in the song.” He thought this was stupid of course. Any guy would. But girls say the silliest things sometimes.

Girls don’t understand how tough we boys try to act. We’re brought up not to cry, not to be wimps, to be strong, and whatever else our daddies tell us. We’re men. We’re not supposed to admit that we get sad, lonely, worried, or afraid.

But here was this girl, telling him to smile. So he tried it. She made him close his eyes and smile in his heart.

I’ve tried this smiling trick, too. And now, maybe, so have you.

I remember the day I was helping this same friend move out of his house. There wasn’t much to smile about that day. He was elderly; I was a grown man. His kids had all grown up. The woman who once taught him to smile had recently been buried. His mind was going downhill.

We were loading his furniture into a moving truck, and he was sitting on a Coleman cooler, watching us carry away his belongings. I told him I was going to miss him.

He said, “Aw, don’t miss me, I’m gonna have so much fun where I’m going.” He was crying.

He was lying to me, and we both knew it. He knew the dementia was eating him alive. It kind of felt like my father was dying all over again. So he just put his arm around me and said, “Smile.”

The thing is, I can’t always smile, even though I wish I could. Because it’s not easy being a human being. Sometimes you worry. Sometimes you get overwhelmed. Sometimes you think too much. Sometimes you forget that your old heart needs rest from the heavy weight of life. Sometimes you frown.

Well. If you get a chance today, take a few seconds for yourself and smile. Do it with your heart. When you’re done, help someone else do the same thing.

And after that, if you simply can’t restrain yourself, go ahead and dance the Mashed Potato.


  1. studiosound3 - March 25, 2020 8:26 am

    Thanks for all the smiles you provide.
    The dog pic was awesome.

  2. Jean - March 25, 2020 11:25 am

    My Funny Valentine is one of my favorites, although there are a great many of my old favorites.

  3. Cathi Russell - March 25, 2020 11:28 am

    My heart is definitely smiling as the sun’s rising!

  4. Beth Ann Chiles - March 25, 2020 11:45 am

    Perfect. Absolutely perfect. I am going to smile with my heart repeatedly today. Thank you.

  5. Bob - March 25, 2020 11:45 am

    My funny valentine
    Sweet comic valentine
    You make me smile with my heart
    Your looks are laughable
    Yet you’re my favorite work of art

  6. Marilyn - March 25, 2020 12:01 pm

    Thank you for the reminder to smile. I am practicing… It does the heart good!

  7. Grace - March 25, 2020 12:10 pm

    Great one. Kindness helps your heart smile. It’s a THING. 😍

  8. Rebecca - March 25, 2020 1:14 pm

    Sean, your middle name should be HOPE. That’s what you give people, hope…and good memories and permission to live in the midst of fear, cruelty and pain in this world! God bless!

  9. Mary Sirmon - March 25, 2020 1:15 pm

    My heart crys a lot for sadness for others as well for myself. Smiling has never crossed my mind even though I am happy most of the time. Today I learned to smile with my heart and I hope it shows. Love you Sean. God’s Blessings.

  10. Connie Havard Ryland - March 25, 2020 1:19 pm

    I have found that smiles are contagious. If you smile at someone, chances are good they will smile back. If nothing else, they have had one person smile at them that day. Right now, when the world is going crazy around us, your smile may be the only one people see that day. Make it a good one. Love and hugs.

  11. Anne Arthur - March 25, 2020 1:24 pm

    Smile. Especially in times like these, you give us healthy directions how to be human with a kind heart. SMILE. Thank you, Sean.

  12. Linda - March 25, 2020 2:01 pm

    You made me cry ! But I’m smiling in my heart! ❤️🙏

  13. Nita - March 25, 2020 2:06 pm

    What a beautiful mix of emotion! 🤗

  14. Sylvia Diederich from Florida - March 25, 2020 2:31 pm

    Wonderful, wonderful. I needed this today. Oh for the good old days. God bless you Sean of the South.

  15. AlaRedClayGirl - March 25, 2020 2:31 pm

    Absolutely beautiful! This is one of your best stories ever.

  16. Dean - March 25, 2020 2:37 pm

    Thank you for making me cry and smile. I try to smile at everyone I see but not being able to get out maybe I can learn to smile with my heart

  17. Erika Putnam,DC - March 25, 2020 2:40 pm

    Loved “smile with your heart.” Feels good to feel good. Thanks.

  18. Katie McCarty - March 25, 2020 2:53 pm

    Good morning Sean, Just had to take quick minute to tell you I’m 73 years now and you taught me something new today. What a good thing “ to smile from my heart”. Thanks and Love you! Keep smiling from your heart. Kate

  19. jnearen2013 - March 25, 2020 3:10 pm

    Very nice Sean.

  20. David P B Feder - March 25, 2020 3:12 pm

    “It almost sounds like something a weirdo hippie therapist would say after an hour of hand-puppet therapy out in his yurt.”
    Truly, one of your best lines, ever!

  21. Edna Barron - March 25, 2020 3:28 pm

    I agree, kindness brings on a smile from the heart. You have a wonderful day, hugs, Edna B.

  22. Linda Moon - March 25, 2020 4:21 pm

    I did not need your Haight Ashbury Free Clinical therapy because I smile with my chest region every morning. I smiled with my big ol’ heart and face last night at someone I know and love who is more than 600 miles away. He reminds me a lot of you, Sean. So take a moment now, Lucinda, to “see” my smile for you!!

  23. Glenda Hinkle - March 25, 2020 4:33 pm

    I’m smiling on the inside while crying on the outside and dancing the mashed potato…….is this normal?

  24. Ann Mills - March 25, 2020 5:34 pm

    Thanks, Sean.

  25. Claudia Geise - March 25, 2020 5:56 pm

    I love you.

  26. Rebecca Souders - March 25, 2020 7:54 pm

    Every ! time I tried this, I had a chill run down my spine! Thanks.

  27. Linda Moon - March 25, 2020 8:45 pm

    my second comment for today: I just heard that Lt. Dan won the Cadbury Bunny tryouts. Congrats to Lt. Dan. He was my second choice behind Lunchbox because I am a cat person. I hope I don’t end up in hell. Lord, Forgive me as I forgive others who choose dogs over cats!

  28. Berryman Mary M - March 25, 2020 9:06 pm

    Thanks so much for bringing big ❤️ smiles today!

  29. Patricia Gibson - March 26, 2020 4:33 am

    Thank goodness for you Sean and I loved the days of touch dancing. Lots of ❤️

  30. Keloth Anne - March 26, 2020 2:45 pm

    Smiles are so important 😊😊
    I’m sharing two with you and Jamie😍😍
    Stay healthy

  31. Fleming - March 30, 2020 2:26 pm

    Tears down the cheeks, nose dripping smiles of yesterday’s memories-sunshine on my back deck
    And wasn’t that in a movie Pal Joey?
    What a blessing for today Thank you and God Bless

  32. Marykay Evans - April 1, 2020 1:11 pm

    Heart smiling and face smiling! And, oh my gosh, the mash potatoes … my honey still does that … our grandkids think he’s crazy! I think he’s wonderful . 57 years soulmates ❤️❤️

  33. Fleming - April 2, 2020 3:36 pm

    Thank you so much for your “reminder Smile” Brought back memories of moments, adventures and my relationship with Jesus. Like my grandpa used to say about manure not being any good in a pile – it’s gott’a be spread around to be of any use. Well, your Smile has been shared….
    Let’s watch out for the results
    God Bless

  34. Aunt Si or Martha Black - May 1, 2020 1:18 am

    Smile though your heart is aching
    Smile even though it’s breaking
    When there are clouds in the sky, you’ll get by
    If you smile through your fear and sorrow
    Smile and maybe tomorrow
    You’ll see the sun come shining through for you

    [Verse 2]
    Light up your face with gladness
    Hide every trace of sadness
    Although a tear may be ever so near
    That’s the time you must keep on trying
    Smile, what’s the use of crying?
    You’ll find that life is still worthwhile
    If you just smile
    That’s the time you must keep on trying
    Smile, what’s the use of crying?
    You’ll find that life is still worthwhile
    If you just smile

  35. Karan Baker - May 1, 2020 3:11 am

    “Because it’s not easy being a human being.” So true and profound.

  36. Mary Hicks - May 12, 2020 9:37 pm

    When you said smile with your heart, I thought of myself when my granddaughter took me to see you in person at Shelby County High School in Columbiana Al. I was so excited and I am 73 years old!! I then thought of Andy and his big smile!! Thanks again, Sean. God bless you and Jamie.


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