Ever watched a Pokémon show? Maybe you know someone who has a Pokémon card collection, or plays the Pokémon games on Nintendo? The TV show is a lighthearted adventure, with a group of kids and their Pokémon (non-human companions with varied special abilities) on a quest of self-discovery and personal achievement, periodically opposed by a team of villains out to steal their Pokémon.
My family enjoys watching this weekly show over dinner, commenting on the inevitable failure of the bad guys, and the relentless optimism of the hero. This week’s episode was more thought-provoking for me, however, as the female protagonist lost her temper with her bickering Pokémon partners, and excused herself for a walk – alone. Wandering about town, she encountered another girl – a famous person in disguise, of course – who needled her about not smiling. “Your smile is powerful. You should smile!”
Long after the show finished, I pondered this simple idea. I’m getting older now, and when I look in the mirror with no expression, the corners of my mouth turn down, and wrinkles extend the curve into a frown. But if I smile, even just a little bit, I look years younger. The lines are still there, but they enlarge into a pleasing, welcoming expression.
The promise in the Pokémon show wasn’t that smiling would be a youth serum, though. The troubled character was a girl, not a middle-aged woman. The promise was for power, for victory over the situation with her partners, and success in the competitions they planned to enter. How could a smile do all that? In the show, the girl’s smile indeed changed the outcome of a hopeless situation. When faced with defeat, with failure, with a skilled opponent and her own shortfalls, she followed the advice, and her smile changed everything.
In that same situation in real life, we have the same choice. We can invite the cloud over our heads to darken with rain and thunder, or maybe, with a little effort, we can call the muscles in our face to action, put on a little smile, and let the cloud dissipate in the sunshine. A little tug of muscle can become a smile of apology, a smile of appreciation for the opposition’s talent, and a smile of confidence that you’re going to persevere – to grow and learn from the experience.
We’re all of us on a quest of self-discovery and personal achievement. We have companions and adversaries, and yes, even battles of sorts. Let us take the advice of one Pokémon champion, and remember to smile at each other along the way. Our smiles‘ power of transformation may surprise us and bless us, with better outcomes than we could ever have imagined.