The Power of a Smile

by Thomas Witlicki

The sun had fallen and a gentle breeze was carrying the sweet smell of freedom through my window, fueling yet another dream. Nightly, I sat in front of that window wondering what it would be like to be free, to have a wife and children to care for, to experience all the ups and downs of "normal" life. But after nearly two decades of dreaming, I'd come to the conclusion that freedom could only be found in death; that a knife could release me from the hell I was living in.

I'm 36 years old and have been incarcerated for half of my life. I learned early on that feelings in this environment are nothing more than a tool for others to use against you; to survive you need to lock all emotions away except anger. In learning this, I forgot how to smile, to show empathy, to care. Most of all, I forgot how these and so many other emotions felt. I forgot how to appreciate all that life is built upon.

In my dreams I could appreciate life, I even came to the conclusion that life is nothing more than the experiences of emotion. But I had no knowledge, no key to unlock that door that had been shut so many years before and release the memnories of these feelings. I guess this was one of the reasons I came to the decision that freedom and life could be achieved through death. Not that I honestly wanted to die, or that I'd commit suicide to accomplish my dream. Rather, I no longer feared death. Instead, I looked forward to it. My logic wasn't very sane--sort of like going to a gun fight with a knife--if I was killed, that would have been my fate. I just didn't care any more, plain and simple.

Then something wonderful happened, something that changed my thought-pattern and renewed my desire to live. Something so simple and natural gave me back the will to exist; it unlocked a door that had been closed for almost 20 years. what was this miracle? A smile. Yes, I said a smile.

I was sitting, gazine through my window into my dreamland, when an angelic voice asked me what I was looking at. As I turned to face the intruder, I beheld a smile which was so beautiful it took my breath away. The first thought through my mind was that God had sent this angel to unlock the vault which I had bolted so many years before.

The more I saw that smile and the kindness which filled this individual's soul, the more emotions I experienced, many for what must have been the very first time.

Remember your first crush? Your first kiss? What I was experiencing from that smile was all the electricity from those emotions rolled into one--and then some. I felt like a child again, innocent and pure, wanting nothing more than to see that magical smile again and again and feel the warmth it filled my heart and soul with.

They say God works in mysterious ways. I always wondered what that really meant; now I know. I had seen many smiles over the years, but none affected me with such impact. It seemed to cradle me and assure me that life was worth living, that death would forever remove the glow that spread through me. It seemed to say, "I care and always will." I suppose this was all I needed to feel inside to be reborn.

This angel is long gone from my life, but that magical smile lives on within my mind and heart. I will forever love my angel.

Funny how a smile can change a life.

Return to Index