Did you notice babies know how to cry without being taught? But smiles and laughs are responses we try to stimulate in them by nurturing happiness into them and modeling laughter for them. Why is it that babies automatically know how to cry but laughter is something we teach them.
I remember our foster baby’s first actual tears, which made his crying all the more real. Even before he had tear ducts, he knew the behavior of crying. I also remember my wife’s and my anticipation of his first smile. We tried tickling him once but he didn’t know what that was. I made millions of funny faces at him. We smiled at him all the time. We said endearing words to him. We showered him with affection. We played with him. We also discerned the not-real smiles. You know, those facial twitches that weren’t genuine smiles. We wanted our baby to smile (without the pressure, of course). And then it came, that first smile with emotion and later that first giggle with delight. And, we as parents swoon over that. We feel proud as parents to introduce the emotion, response and reality of joy into a child’s life!
Babies remind us that we are readily aware of our brokenness as humans when we come straight out of the womb. We have no problem crying as soon as we enter the world. As infants, we grasp a sense of hardship, struggle and pain. We somehow know that life won’t be easy and we are not whole. As adults though, we become wittier in covering up our brokenness. I can’t say we’re always wiser about dealing with our brokenness as much as we just become wittier in faking our brokenness. In essence, we are less honest about our brokenness than when we were babes. Then, like trying to learn to laugh, we go through life in search for happiness. We look for that good, which the ancient philosophers spoke about. But like infants who need others to teach them how to smile and laugh, we’re supposed to discover that joy is not something we spontaneously discover by ourselves. We need others to show us, pour into us, and give to us. We need family, friends and, most of all, a savior. I think we’re all striving to have those genuine smiles in a humanity that too readily knows sadness.