by Dwight A. Moody
I miss a lot of things during this season of disruption.
The sports, for sure. The Kentucky Wildcats were poised to win yet another SEC championship and make a run for title number nine. My grandson Sam is a connoisseur of all things NBA—at age 12, no less—and we were all set for an exciting playoff. He was asking questions like, “Who can beat the Lakers?” and “Is anybody better than Luka Doncic?”
I miss the sports. And I miss church. I do attend my Sunday School class on Zoom, and that is better than nothing. But what can replace the hand-shaking, hymn-singing, gospel-telling gatherings that have been a part of my life since the beginning?
I miss the funerals, the weddings, the graduations, and the birthdays—especially mine this year. I had planned a big deal, with invitations to people from several states to come celebrate completion of my 70th year on planet earth. Not that anybody would actually come, except the one friend and one neighbor and his son who did show up. It was nice, given any circumstances.
What do you miss? The concerts? We go down to the waterfront here on St. Simons Island and unfold the chairs around the gazebo to enjoy whatever group has been signed up for the evening.
I miss all this and a thousand other things. But mostly what I miss is the smile. Your smile and the smiles of those I love and the smiles of strangers on the street.
We are wearing masks these days, anytime we go out. While on vacation today, I walked four blocks to the bank, to the drive-through teller. I carried my mask in my hand in case I met anybody. I walked passed the Kroger store where my nephew works and where we are buying all our away-from-home groceries. There, all employees wear masks as do most customers.
Some don’t of course, and we have all seen videos of the few who have drawn the proverbial line in the sand against, well, something, I’m not quite sure. Some sputter about big government and loss of liberty. There is a Seinfeld episode about this, you remember, as there is about every life experience. Remember the day Kramer refused to wear the ribbon during the AIDS walk?
Most of us, however, wear the mask because we are more concerned about loss of life and health and income. Wearing a mask is a small investment in all that, in my life as well as yours, in my health and yours.
So, I wear the mask. I have two packs of masks in my car and I offer them to people who seem to have forgotten or to have lost the sense of citizenship that overcomes me when I wrap one around each ear. It makes me feel I am doing something for the Common Good, and that makes me proud.
But the mask means nobody can see my smile.
The smile is the most distinctive thing about me and, I think, about most people. It is the clue to their disposition and the gateway to their soul.
The smile is the universal sign of humanity. It is the same everywhere. All else is different: language, dress, faith, politics, habits, even diseases in some places. But the smile is always the same.
Some people have more or fewer teeth, and the teeth they have may be straight or crooked, white or yellow; but the smile is the same. The lips widen and the ends turn up; the eyes sparkle and sometimes dance; the spirit inside of us sends out the word that we are happy, amused, pleased, or delighted by something we see, or hear, or feel.
The smile transmits this winsome spirit from one person to the next. It sends a signal that some things are all right, even bright. “A smile as small as mine might be precisely their necessity.” Dickenson said it just right, as always.
Yes, I know the smile sometimes means other moods and emotions. One web site lists 19 things a smile can express. And yes, I know the smile can camouflage the sadness, the brokenness, the despair within us; and this breaks my heart.
But mostly the smile is a sign of hope, of happiness, of humanness. It is the thing that connects my soul to the soul of everyone I meet. When smile meets smile, I am reminded of that famous episode in the life of Thomas Merton when, at the corner of a busy urban street, he suddenly “saw the secret beauty of their hearts…the core of their reality, the person that each one is in God’s eyes”. I am sure that, at the moment, he smiled, and the others smiled back at him. That’s the way it works.
What I miss most are the smiles.
I will be glad when the pandemic is over. We will have one more reason to smile. I will take off my mask and pour out all the smiles stored up in every nook and cranny of my soul. I hope you will do the same. In this way, we will send to people everywhere that one thing that we all need every day–