On a recent trip to Georgia to visit my relatives and to take care of some pressing business, I learned a valuable lesson from my longtime sister in law, Teresa Fowler Stancil. We have been in the same family for more than 40 years and have shared much humor, some illness, hundreds of Scrabble games, lots of other good times, a few sad ones, child rearing secrets, and years of life experiences. She is quite the teacher and I have found myself gleaning tidbits from her vast table of knowledge.
I do believe I learned one of my greatest lessons from her on this trip. She and her daughter, Melissa, who lives next door in beautiful Atlanta suburbia, often used an expression, complete with overdone waving motions, while my daughter DeAnna and I were in their home. I couldn’t help but inquire as to what it meant.
DeAnna and I were there to attend a court hearing and almost everyone knows that when two parties set out to settle differences, there is some winning and some losing on both parts. At any time that a negative subject was broached, or it seemed that something unkind was about to be uttered about any individual, Teresa and Melissa, if she were present, would simply wave and smile broadly. Teresa explained that she had discovered for herself that there are certain times in life when all one can do is smile and wave. She said it works for her, and as I began to put the thought into practice, I found it works for me, too. So smiling and waving we go down life’s often-obstructed pathway.
My first thought was that they were mimicking the Queen of England or a monarch of some other country. It seems that when television newscasts show the queen, she is sitting in the royal car traveling slowly through the appointed town, village, or city, and that as if on command, she waves and smiles from under her colorful, broad brimmed hat that always matches her outfit perfectly. I have wondered what she is really thinking behind the elegantly orchestrated English dignity in which she is clothed.
I remember one news segment that aired the idea that the new princess had lessons on the proper way to wave to the many folks who lined the streets to see her. It was a dignified wave, but it seems to me that Kate got into the spirit of the thing and forsook the demure, small wave for one that was open and friendlier. I know at the tennis match the other day, she really did get into the wave along with the crowd of onlookers cheering English players on the court.
My sister in law said, “No, that is not where we got it, actually, although I can see why you might think that.” Teresa went on to explain that while watching “Madagascar” with her four grandsons, she noted that the mischievous penguins were always smiling and waving. They did not allow the other animals or people to get them down, steal their joy, or make them miserable. When things happened in their lives, and they realized they could do nothing about them at the moment, the penguins simply smiled and waved.
So Teresa and her family adopted the practice and have been doing it ever since.
DeAnna and I found the idea encouraging and adopted it for our own lives. As we traveled through the busy Atlanta airport, waited on planes to be cleaned and checked over, learned of long weather delays that could not be avoided both in Atlanta and Houston, sat almost two hours on the runway waiting to take off, (we were told that we were No. 27 to leave that particular runway), and as we repeated the same procedures in Houston at Bush, we caught ourselves smiling and waving. It sure breaks the ice with those you happen to be around at the moment. They wonder what you are up to and you can share or not.
Even though it may not seem very finely tuned, it is Scriptural, I determined when I got home again to Texas. Read the 12th chapter of the Book of Romans. Paul said in Verse 9, “Let love be without dissimulation (disguise), abhor that which is evil and cling to that which is good.” Verse 10 follows with “Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love, in honor preferring one another.” Verse 12 admonishes us to “rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, continue in prayer,” and Verse 14 teaches, “Bless them which persecute you, bless, and curse not.” Verse 18 suggests that “If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men (and women).”
I should think that a big smile and a friendly wave would help to ensure that goal. I’m fairly certain that a smile and a wave would be more in line with getting along than clenched fists and a loud and scary snarl.
Brenda Cannon Henley is an award-winning journalist and writer living on the Southeast Texas Gulf Coast. Having enjoyed more than four decades in ministry, Brenda shares her columns with our readers and works with churches and faith-based programs nationwide. She can be reached at (409) 781-8788.