Hearts at Work
A Column by Jim Tipton
"The best thing you can do with your lips…."
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.” All over the earth people smile to each other. 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 many Mexican ladies. Two of my favorite Mexican ladies are in the photo above, which I took a few months ago—my wife Martha and my daughter Gabriela, who often delight me with their warm, joyous, life affirming smiles, smiles you can carry with you in your hip pocket.
Occasionally I return to the States and in both Colorado and Ohio, 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 small towns or soaking up the sun in little public parks. In addition to making me feel at home again, almost all of them have offered me those hearty and sunny Mexican smiles.
I remember visiting 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 young woman named Dani. She guided me through the store and courteously and charmingly showed me the various exotic phones now available, and then she thoughtfully offered her suggestions on the best (a rather simple one thank God) phone for me. Although she spoke perfect English, Dani’s dark hair and brown eyes and beautiful skin and smiles 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 or thirty 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 that popular t-shirt that reads: “Smiles are the second best thing you can do with your lips.” But maybe smiles are the very best thing you can do with your lips.
Often, I will think back over a long and often weary day and remember the many 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. I go to sleep feeling blessed.
Not a day goes by here at Lake Chapala that I do not receive warm smiles from total strangers, sometimes young, sometimes old. Of late I have particularly paid attention to the smiles of the elderly. As I pass them I feel like someone has just handed me a bouquet of flowers. Remember Mark Twain’s observation? “Wrinkles merely indicate…where smiles have been.”
One old proverb goes like this, “A smile says the same thing in every language.” Another goes like this, “The shortest distance between two people is a smile.”
Mother Teresa of Calcutta exhorts us to do this: “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.”