Why do people frown on the Paris subway?

smileToday I rode the subway in Paris and since I had nothing else to do I decided to solve one of the great mysteries of life: why do people frown on the subway?

My particular subway car flashed drearily through the bowels of Paris at breakneck speed. I suspect it’s the  same in London, New York and Tokyo: you just don’t smile and talk to others on the subway.

“Why not?” I wondered.

Nearly everyone was frowning—that young lady in shorts and as well as that Muslim lady with her head covered, both dimmed the world with their sad look. That older lady dropped off to sleep and her frown turned scary—kind of like the look my mama zapped me with when she caught me irritating my little sister. This lady was probably practicing scaring her kids in her sleep.

During one stop the door opened and a young man entered. He had kind of a cool frown plastered to his face. You know, the frown the drummer of a rock band wears. It wouldn’t be cool to grin if you’re a drummer and I suppose it isn’t for a virile young man on the Paris subway, either.

Now, to be honest if I hadn’t been almost smiling I would have been frowning too because it was hot in that car. Others looked sleepy and if a person sleeps with a smile on his face you better wake him up and see what he was dreaming about.

I think most were frowning because it’s customary. I only saw two smiles the whole way home. The man across from me smiled faintly once to the lady across from him. I don’t know why. Prozac maybe.

Actually, I did see one big smile. When my wife looked over and saw me eying her with a goofy grin she smiled back (She didn’t goofy-grin me back though).

C’mon David. Get to the point.

The point? Was there supposed to be a point to this?

Why Don’t I Smile?

Oh well, here goes . I suspect that for most of us the default position of our face finds the corners of our mouth turned down. Not just in the subway but driving along or walking along or just standing there.

Probably has to do with the fact that it takes a bit of effort to smile. Gravity pulls our lips towards the center of the earth.

And if you grin when no one else is smiling they look at you strangely and edge closer to the door.

You know, we ought to start a movement to change that. If anyone has a reason to smile, even when others don’t, it’s those who know Jesus.
So here are my “Four Reasons to Put a Goofy Smile On Your Face.”

1.      We can enter into God’s presence by faith and that’s a place of humongous joy. “”You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (Ps. 16:11 NKJV)

2.      Joy is a fruit of being filled with God’s Spirit. Smiling is less dangerous when you’re joyful. Just try to frown when you’re really happy. You’ll explode your head! So, if you’re full of the Lord’s joy, it’s safer to smile. “ But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness …” (Galatians 5:22, NKJV)

And did you get that? The fruit of the Spirit is joy? Which Spirit? The Spirit of God? You mean God is joyful??? I thought He was an old white-bearded fellow sitting on his throne frowning like someone who has been baptized in lemon juice. If that’s the case, I don’t know what god you’re talking about. The God who created heaven and earth is joyful. I just read it.

3.      You’re better looking when you smile. You can be really ugly but if you smile it helps. “They looked to Him and were radiant, and their faces were not ashamed.” (Ps. 34:5, NKJV. Um, this may be stretching it a bit but I still believe it’s true).

4.      When we begin to thank God for each blessing—those big ones and those tiny ones, too—joy sneaks up on us. Thankfulness (to God and others) pushes the corners of our mouth towards our shining eyes. Refusing to be thankful is a load. It pushes the corners of your mouth towards your toes.

“On your feet now—applaud God!
Bring a gift of laughter,
sing yourselves into his presence.
Know this: God is God, and God, God.
He made us; we didn’t make him.
We’re his people, his well-tended sheep.
Enter with the password: “Thank you!”
Make yourselves at home, talking praise.
Thank him. Worship him.
For God is sheer beauty,
all-generous in love,
loyal always and ever.”
(Ps. 100, The Message)

One thought on “Why do people frown on the Paris subway?

  1. I was in the main subway station in DC one time; people were standing around on both sides of the tracks waiting for their ride. A man came down the stairs with a beaming face. People looked at him, he waved his hand, and asked, “How are you doing? Lovely day, isn’t it? Aren’t you glad the sun is shinning? I sure am! We’ve got so much to be thankful for! How are you ma’am, how are you, sir? Hey – greetings to y’all! Wow! Lots of people here – been waiting long? Well, man, let’s make the most of our time! What’s your name? Where are you going?” and so on, and so on. DC is like Paris – people frown, they don’t talk to strangers, they don’t smile. But this guy soon had everyone within sight smiling, talking, waving – on both side of the tracks! We need more people like that. I suspect he was a Christian, but I was too far away to have a chance to talk to him. It was just great being there and seeing the difference he made. The atmosphere lightened. People responded. I think many times people are just waiting for someone to give them a smile, to talk to them; they’re too afraid, too shy, to be the first one to smile. We should try it! We just might be surprised.

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