Marge Fenelon is a Catholic author, blogger, speaker, and award-winning journalist. She’s a long-time correspondent for National Catholic Register, a columnist for the Milwaukee Catholic Herald and the author of several books on Marian devotion and
Catholic family life. She’s also a weekly contributor to Relevant Radio’s “Morning Air Show” and a popular guest on several other Catholic radio and television shows. Along with her husband, Mark, Marge also works as an educator in the Apostolic Movement of Schoenstatt. Together they have four grown children.
As I took my seat, I smiled at the woman next to me and said, “Good morning!” Without looking up from her tablet, she scowled. Okay, it was a frown. But, it was a big, unhappy frown.
Oh, boy. This is going to be a very long flight, I thought to myself.
It was indeed a very long flight. Not only did the woman frown, but she hung onto that frown and never so much as acknowledged my existence the whole way. Instead, she persistently focused on her tablet.
I’m not the kind of traveler who needs to be pampered and made the center of attention, nor am I an incessant talker who keeps going the whole flight long. In fact, I do very little talking on the plane, usually because I’m either preparing for a speaking engagement or recovering from one.
I do, however, think that I owe the person sitting next to me recognition and a bit of pleasantry and I’d like to receive the same.
So, when this woman completely blew me off, I was a bit irked.
I understand that she may have had a very bad day, or perhaps was facing a personal dilemma and just didn’t feel like talking. I have no idea about her background or situation. Maybe she wasn’t feeling well. But, to frown like that?
This makes me think of the 2013 Super Bowl commercial for Volkswagen Beetle. A Minnesotan office worker is so happy about his Beetle, that he exudes happiness and makes it his goal to get everybody in the office to be as happy as he is. He assures the guy who was pounding the vending machine that his “sticky bun” will come soon. He interrupts a dismal meeting to assure everyone that all the room really needs is a smile, and then he takes them all for a ride in his Volkswagen Beetle. Of course, this makes them smile. He catches one of his coworkers frowning and tells her, “Julia, take that frown and turn it the other way around.”
Oh, I SO wanted to turn to the woman next to me on the plane and say, “Lady, take that frown and turn it the other way around."
I didn’t, but I might next time this happens to me.
Sadly, there probably will be plenty of next-times. I see this kind of thing, not only in planes but in airports, grocery stores, shopping malls, and, yes, even sometimes in church. Why are we such unhappy people? Why do we go around frowning all the time? I don’t imply that we need to be wildly happy all the time or to ignore our troubles, because God put those troubles in our lives and he’s asking us to work through them. Everything has a purpose.
Still, we shouldn’t impose our frown on the people around us.
Smiles are contagious. Just think what would happen if you, me, and even the woman in the plane decided that, instead of a frown we would wear a smile wherever we went. Smile would encourage smile would encourage smile – you get the picture. Even more daring would be to acknowledge that we have a child of God in front of us (or next to us, as the case may be) and to offer a brief greeting.
As Christians we’re called to share the Light of Christ. What more brilliant way to share that Light than by giving others the simple courtesy of a smile and a hello?
As the guy in the Beetle commercial would say, “Take that frown and turn it the other way around."