Friday, 25 January 2013


My regular readers will remember that I often run a long run with the word "smile" scrawled onto my hand. It's called my race strategy and I write it there to remember that if I just smile, I will get to the end and achieve my race aim (which is scribbled on the other hand and is quite simply to "enjoy".)

Such a simple method, works wonders for me, smile when it gets hard. When it gets harder, turn the smile right up and it becomes a manic laugh as it strangles any yelp of pain or sob. So simple, so taken for granted, the ability to smile. We do it when we bump into someone in the hallway at work, when someone waves a camera in front of us. We don't realise how important a gesture that is.

I learned today that Davide, a survivor who is being counselled through Freedom from Torture, did not proffer a smile for months. I looked at the photos of him they had sent me and yes, there he was, at a performance by the music therapy group, looking somber, at a poetry reading, again somber. Around him, others had that "the camera is pointed my way, I had best smile" smile. But not Davide. I cannot imagine what dreadful events could happen in your life that your default would be to not smile. What is wounded in your soul that a smile would be unfathomable?

Alice, the superb regional fundraiser at the Manchester office told me it was months before she had seen Davide smile. And it was when a guitar was donated to the charity's music group for him to use. Yesterday Davide was told that I had donated him a laptop to help him learn English. His response was beyond a smile - he actually laughed!

When the hill climb at Mallorca feels bigger than it is, or the salt of the sea swim makes me feel sick, when the run is hot and I just want to walk, I will resort to my race strategy, look at the scrawled word on my hand, think of Davide, and smile.

About Freedom from Torture. Donate to support people like Davide.

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