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The Free Gift

Who doesn’t like receiving gifts? I certainly do, and so does everyone else I know!

Gifts have a way of making us feel loved and special. Throughout the years, I have learned an expensive gift doesn’t necessarily make you happier. In fact, the best gifts I have received have been relatively inexpensive, but it was the thoughtfulness behind the gift that warmed my heart.

We all have a free gift we carry around with us all day, every day. Sometimes we give it away without hesitation, while other times we hold onto it trying our best not to share it because we are having a bad day. It is interesting how our mood at the moment determines how we use our free gift.

NV Faith Columnist Natalie Rudd is a member of the ministerial staff at Antioch Baptist Church in Fairfax.

I find that when I hold this precious free gift inside myself, it isn’t worth nearly as much as when I give it away. Holding onto it, can actually make me feel worse and I need to remind myself that a gift is meant to be given.

Everyone has the free gift, regardless of where you live, the color of your skin, your gender, age, economic status, what else you may own or not own.  You have the gift and it was intended to be shared with everyone you encounter. The gift is intended to encourage others and lift up their spirits without having to say a single word or spend any money.

What is this free gift? A simple, genuine smile. That’s it. That’s all. But for being so simple, the benefits are enormous. A genuine smile can warm the coldest heart and soften the hardest spirit. Research has shown that smiling can lower blood pressure, ease tension headaches and decrease pain. Additionally, smiling and its partner, laughter, can help manage chronic depression and anxiety disorders.

A friend of mine said that one day, a woman stopped her to thank her for smiling at her. She shared that she was having a difficult time and her smile encouraged her.

Wow! A free gift from a complete stranger encouraged someone.

You never know what someone else is going through and how a simple thing like your genuine smile can make a difference.

It costs you nothing. This is a priceless gift, especially when it touches another’s soul and encourages them to keep hanging on and believing in better moments. We all deal with the struggles and the ups and downs of daily life. So many of us are hurting, yet pretending we are not. A smile can make a difference because it can send a message that someone else cares.

When someone mistreats you, try a warm smile. When someone is rude to you, try a genuine smile. When someone cuts you off while driving, show them a sincere, warm smile. (Not an “I see you and I’m gonna get you” smile!)

Smiling can even work on you when you’re feeling down, depressed or discouraged. Try shifting your thoughts to all of your blessings. Focus on the good things going for you, whether they’re in the present or from the past, and allow a smile to brighten your face and your disposition. I guarantee you will find the muscles in your shoulders and neck relaxing. You will begin to feel calmer and less tense. Imagine giving that gift to someone else who may be feeling alone or hopeless.

Your simple genuine smile could have a significant impact on others in ways you’ll never know.

Do you still feel like you don’t have anything to smile about?

Perhaps you find yourself in the middle of a life storm and you are having a rough time of it. Maybe your bills are piling high, an unwanted health diagnosis has entered your life, your relationships are falling apart, or maybe you can’t seem to let go of all of the hurt and bitterness from your past. I get it. As my friend said just the other day: “Been there, done that, made the T-shirt and sold it for a million dollars.”

We all experience this thing called life.

But that’s why we have faith. Faith in something that’s bigger and better than life and all the problems that come with it — our faith in God, his son, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. When you place your trust in the Holy Trinity, you really have something to smile about! When you think back over your life and remember how far God has brought you, you have something to smile about. When I think about the goodness of God, I can’t help but smile. I can’t help but smile when I think about how he made a way out of no way for me, opening doors I could not see.

There is something about my relationship with Jesus that keeps me smiling, and I have to share it every day and everywhere I go. Heck — it is the best free gift!

Natalie Rudd is on the ministerial staff at Antioch Baptist Church in Fairfax. Reach her at mindfuldiva@gmail.com

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