How Far Can Reach a Smile

In one of the songs in our hymnal, Marjorie Jillson asks, “How far can reach a smile, how high a helping hand can lift? How far is far enough to give?” I’ve been thinking about those words since our children and youth chose Smile Train to be the recipient of this year’s Simple Gifts project. Simple Gifts is our annual spiritual discipline, as a community, of letting our practice of giving be shaped by our values of service and love. The challenge for each of our households is to give simply to the people we love – to try out spending a little less money, to show just as much love and care in this season of gifting.

Because of this spiritual practice (of making our own gifts, finding interesting gifts second-hand, and otherwise avoiding one more trip to the mall), most of us find ourselves spending less on the Hanukkah/Solstice/Christmas/New Year extravaganza. Maybe a little less, maybe a lot less. And so, we ask our children each year, to pick some cause or agency that they think could benefit from those dollars and cents. Their choice for this season, Smile Train, operates in 80 countries all over the planet. They provide basic surgeries for children in need of cleft lip and palate repair; kids who were born with a gap in part of their lip or face.

In some ways, this is a fairly minor disability to be born with. It can sometimes cause breathing or feeding issues or affect speech development, but the effects are mostly cosmetic. And yet, the truth is that we live in a world in which the cosmetic can be incredibly important in a person’s life. Being able to smile and have others smile back at you – not stare, not turn away – profoundly shapes how someone grows and develops. The medical care needed to give children born with cleft lips a “normal” smile is both simple and cheap, and this small thing can make a dramatic difference in the lives of millions of such children.

Our children have given us the opportunity, this year, to make such a difference. So I encourage you, as you think about your budget planning for this holiday season: how much you will a lot for presents or parties, for travel or special meals. Include this project on your spreadsheet; give this cause a place at your table. If there are children in your household, make them a part of the discussion, talk with them about what your priorities as a family are. This season is a time to celebrate, a time to be generous, a time to show the people we care about that we care about them. And this practice is one way we have, together, of doing all three of those things. We will pool our contributions together in a special collection during the service on Sunday, December 23rd. I look forward to seeing your smiling faces there.

In Faith,

Rev. Kelly Weisman Asprooth-Jackson


First Parish Church

225 Cabot St

Beverly, MA 01915


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