It’s been a long time since I’ve seen her, but to this day she remains one of the most beautiful people I have known.

I was probably 12 when I first met her. We started going to a new church and she was there. This wife and mother of five children, who had the biggest smile you’ve ever seen. Her smile was extraordinary, radiant. What was really impressive, though, was that it was always there.

She smiled at you like she was truly interested in you. And she was! She smiled when she talked to you. She smiled when you asked her questions, as if what you were saying mattered a lot. It wasn’t goofy or ridiculous or fake. Her smile was her special gift, and it blessed us all.

I don’t know exactly the day or the moment, but somewhere along the way I knew in my heart that this woman was a hero of mine. I wanted to be like her. I didn’t recognize it in succinct terms then, but I felt that she had learned the secret of how to find joy and keep hold of it in this life. Even as I write this, I realize she is still having an effect on me. I know that her big, genuine, love-filled smile is the one I want to give to my children. To my husband. Every day. Repeatedly.

We may not all have brilliant smiles that dazzle people like hers did. But all of us can choose joy. It is a choice—a choice between complaining or saying thank you. A choice between voicing those negative words to hubby or refraining. A choice between yelling at the children or quietly correcting. A choice between nursing thoughts of self-pity or counting our blessings.

Choosing joy doesn’t come without a cost. Self-pity and complaint have a satisfying, self-righteous appeal. Perhaps we have the right to be angry, frustrated, and unforgiving, but when we cling to the negative, we deprive our family of the gift we want most to give—the gift of our love. Love doesn’t come without a sacrifice—the decision to lay aside negativity and embrace joy and thanks.

And that is, perhaps, the greatest thing any woman can do for her family.