Hearts at Work
By Jim Tipton
“The shortest distance between two people is a smile”
—Anonymous

     In Farewell My Lovely, Raymond Chandler’s indefatigable Private Detective, Philip Marlowe, a lover of all things female, says, “She gave me a smile I could feel in my hip pocket.”
     Here at Lakeside, some of the best smiles to ever brighten my days and nights are those smiles that so spontaneously light up the faces of  Mexican ladies. Those include my wife Martha and her buddies—like Gaby and Raquel on each side of her in the photo above—who delight me with their life-affirming smiles, smiles you can carry with you in your hip pocket. Many a Friday night, after a long week struggling to write well, I succumb with no resistance at all to the happy mood created by the smiles of Martha and Gaby and Raquel and other friends.
     Throughout the month of September (as I write this), I have been traveling through Colorado with a dear poetry companion, Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer, presenting our “poetry duet” at universities, art centers, libraries, and book stores. And even when I feel weary, those warm smiles of audiences responding, and certainly Rosemerry’s own smiles, make me feel the five-thousand mile road trip (one-fifth of the circumference of the planet) is well worth it, vale la pena.
     In both western and eastern Colorado, he encontrado—I have found—Mexicans, many Mexicans, working in restaurants, working in convenience stores, working in supermarkets, as well as strolling the streets of mountain towns or soaking up the sun in little  parks. In addition to making me feel at home again, almost all of them have offered me those sunny Mexican smiles.
     A couple of hours ago I went to a Verizon office in Denver to sign a new two-year contract with Verizon for my U.S. and Mexico cellular service and to pick out a new cell phone. The person assigned to me was a strikingly attractive young woman named Dani. She led me through the store and  charmingly showed me the various exotic phones now available, and then she offered her suggestions on the best phone for me. Although she spoke perfect English, Dani’s dark hair and brown eyes and beautiful skin and manner prompted me to ask her whether she was of Hispanic heritage. Dani’s answer?
     She was born in Guadalajara. She knew Lake Chapala. She also wrote poetry and she was familiar with various Latin American poets I mentioned. And, throughout the twenty delightful minutes I spent with her, she gave me, at no charge whatsoever, dozens of those lovely, sensual, confident smiles that I could “feel in my hip pocket,” that I could carry with me the rest of the day.
     As I left I thought how much fun it would be to be twenty-five again and single, and to walk in to see Dani wearing a t-shirt that read: “Smiles are the second best thing you can do with your lips.”
     But maybe smiles are the best thing you can do with your lips. Often, at the end of a long day, I will think back over the day and remember the smiles that arrived unexpectedly. Sometimes I forget completely a conversation with a particular woman, or man for that matter, and remember instead a smile that came right up out of their heart. 
One old proverb says, “A smile says the same thing in every language.” Another says, “The shortest distance between two people is a smile.”
     Mother Teresa of Calcutta exhorted us to “Spread love everywhere you go. First of all in your own house. Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God’s kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile.”