When You’re Smiling

One of my sons called last night to tell me that the steelhead run is the best in over 30 years, and we should go out my favorite hole and pick up a few. But my mind didn’t focus on the great fishing I have experienced in years past, but on the long climb down a steep hill to my particular spot and the aching that would go along while standing in a cold river for a few hours and the pain of climbing back up that rocky hillside. No fish is worth it anymore.

I was brushing my teeth this morning and took a second look at the guy in the mirror, and I was shocked at what I now see there. My golden years are turning into molding years, more rust than gold. My blonde hair is now pure white. Those wrinkles are not scars of battle but ruts of old age and perhaps smiling too much.

I can no longer do many of the activities that I used to enjoy. I now judge any outing on how far I must walk, how many stairs are involved, and where I can find the closest bathroom. I find that I have made a lot of decisions over the last few years based on what I can’t do rather than what I can do. I can’t ski as I used to ski, and I can’t run the way I ran as a youth. I cannot get on the back of a horse even with the help of a ladder, let alone run it through some jumps. I wouldn’t even try.

Who am I kidding here? I can’t hear or see like I did when I was just 80! I can’t hear or see the way I did 50 years ago. I can’t hike up the mountain trails the way I did a few years ago, and I never go out for a late meal anymore. My dining out now revolves around early bird specials or two-for-one dinners. We hurry home, so we don’t miss Wheel of Fortune.

I now plan on going home even before I get wherever I’m going. I can find something nice to say to everyone I encounter. I can listen with an intent ear, and even when a hurting friend talks so low that I can’t hear the words, I can nod and share the hurt I see.

Having said all that, my mouth still works, and I can smile at everyone I run into as I roam about through each day.

I know we are usually in too much of a hurry to get where we are going to make eye contact and say a few kind words to the checkers and baggers at the grocery store or the waitress and busboy at the restaurant or that neighbor standing in their driveway. Maybe you could have introduced yourself or that stranger who came to your church last Sunday.

But I promise you that if you do that one simple thing, your life will change for the good, and the gold will begin to bust out through the rust.

Let me share just one small example from so many hundreds of such occasions. Last Thanksgiving, we went to a wonderful restaurant for dinner. On the way out I took a slight detour and stopped at the kitchen, and thanked the cook staff for the delicious meal they provided. I received a lot of high fives. And a lot of smiles. After we left the restaurant, the manager caught up with us to thank me for taking the time to bless the cook staff. He said that with the hundreds of tables they were serving that day, I was the only patron who took the time to do that. It was a small thing but impacted people who were working hard and just needed a kind word.

I pray each morning that I have an abundance of what I call “people gifts” so that I can give them away in loving all my neighbors as myself, bringing kindness and love to those I meet who need it. And I assume they all need it.

Try it the next time you run those errands that take you around the neighborhood. It will bless you and those whose paths you cross. Then watch out. When you walk into a place, the people will already be already smiling.


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