When I look out at the people and they look at me and they are smiling,
then I know, that I’m loved. That is the time that I have no worries, no problems. – Etta James
The smile. A mood lifting, contagious reaction, free to give, and beautiful to receive, gesture and expression. How we love when babies smile. It is the one sound or expression they make, that lets us know everything is okay. A natural reaction, it is created with ease. A frown creates tension, and if our Grandmothers are correct, hold on to one long enough, and it will become your permanent expression. Smile, and less an occasion or two, the person you smiled at, will smile back at you. Smile in the mirror and you will like the person you see. Smile in the morning, and welcome in the new day. Smile when your world is crying and find the strength to see it through. A downside to smiling? I have no idea. I did not search for that answer, for the smile should remain untouchable, free from the trials and tribulations attached to so many of our expressions of emotion.
His name was Rod Serling and from 1959 – 1964, he created original episodes of the legendary anthology television show, The Twilight Zone. I was born after the series had ended, but I am not alone in claiming it as one of the all time great shows. Each episode is of its own creation. There were no recurring characters, other than his monologue, nor did any storylines continue until the next week. No subplots needed to add complexity. The foundation was laid, events executed, and our minds were blown. all in less than 30 minutes. He created worlds, time periods and in arguably, the absolute best episode ever To Serve Man, he introduced humanity on earth to “humanity” from outer space. The shows were tense, compelling, and directed with such skill and finesse, we would always forget how ruthless he could be in flipping the script. Every episode was a motion picture and Rod Serling was a master of the performance.
On October 16, 1987, 12 years after Serling’s untimely death, a future music producer would be stillborn, pronounced dead at birth. But while the infant displayed no outward signs of life, there lived a fighting spirit inside. When efforts to revive him were successful, there was little hope that a young Keith Montgomery of Baltimore, Maryland would make it through the night. But there was fortitude in that infant child; he would defy the odds and after what must have been for his mother, a long and painful night, his survival gave her reason to smile.
I have much respect for the visionaries, whose legendary status does not define me as yet. I have much love for the arts and individual artistic expression, but I believe it is possible to push the envelope too far. And Rod Serling flung said envelope, way over the cliff in his creation of The Twilight Zone episode It’s a Good Life. Forced to smile at all times, in the face of death, destruction, and the systematic elimination of all mankind. It did not matter if your loved ones were disintegrated or your emotions were overwhelmed, stop smiling even for a minute, and a little boy would make you disappear. With no silver lining or message to be learned, and the perversion of smiling in the face of unspeakable things, was not entertaining and was the one performance I wish I had missed. Smiles should be untouchable afterall.
Keith aka Fiyaman (Montgomery) would win the fight for his life but would not emerge unscathed. The lack of oxygen to his young brain, during the moments he did not breathe, would cause a speech impediment and a learning disability, he would carry for the rest of his life. During elementary school, when young children can be so cruel, his difficult speech made him a target for childhood bullies. But one day he would stand up for himself, and would force his bully to stand down and from that day forth – with the support of his family – he would find a way to live a purpose driven life. He spoke slower, and concentrated on the pronunciation of his words. He would study longer, forcing his brain to catch up with stealth. A lover of literature, who dabbles in the visual arts, but at the young age of 26, he has found his calling in the recording arts. A talented and creative producer, he imagines rhythmic sounds and lays down the tracks that will one day become songs. It is his music that is heard in My Heart, The Neighborhood’s first original song. And it is in his music, where he finds the most joy, only eclipsed by the joy he feels in, “Making other people smile.”
In our ongoing quest for peace, let us arm ourselves with the one tool we each have at our disposal. Peace is not an all or none endeavor. Let us offer a smile as our first reaction to a friend, a family member or coworker who is having a bad day. Let us smile at the homeless family we pass on the street, allowing dignity and humility to rain down as peace. Perhaps today is the day that we need a smile, to calm the anger or bitterness or rage of our emotions, instilling an inner peace, if only for today. And if all else fails, look in the mirror or close your eyes, and find a reason to smile.
– Kendall F. Person, thepublicblogger
the Smiles Collection courtesy of Very Sweet and Cute Animals
*personal story as told by Keith Montgomery aka Fiyaman