Why I Smile
On my desk sits an unobtrusive frame containing just one paragraph. Each day I look at the paragraph and am reminded that eyes are watching me. Grown up eyes and not so grown up eyes watch Laura.
Several months ago, my sister-in-law was sorting through a stack of papers that my nephew had brought home from school. As she waded through the assignments, she kept one or two items for the refrigerator and tossed the rest into the garbage. As she neared the bottom of the heap, she came across one page. The handwriting was cramped and slanted dangerously towards the upper edge of the page. Eraser smears added to the general disheveled look, but it was the actual words that caught her eye.
She reached for her phone and with one shoulder hunched up and her head leaned over to keep the phone in place, she called me.
“I’ve got something you need to see here, Laura. It’s an assignment Kyle had to do for school.”
I laughed out loud. I was anticipating the generally misspelled, awkwardly worded work that ten-year old boys tend to generate.
“No, it’s actually really sweet,” she interrupted my laughter. “He was supposed to write a descriptive paragraph about someone he knows, and he chose you.”
Instantly, I was all ears. This is what she read to me and what now resides in that little frame on my desk:
My aunt, Laura, always has a smile on her face. She has blonde hair and a cheerful smile on her face. Her skin is white. She plays the piano for the church choir. I have an organ at my house, and she loves to play it when she comes over. My aunt Laura is a happy person.
When she finished reading, I was dumbstruck. Most of the time, I can pass the test. Most days the smiles come easily and gracious responses don’t have to be forced, but not always. I instantly thought of all of the people at whom I’d not smiled. I thought of grumpy days at work.
“Could you email that to me?” I asked. I closed my eyes and breathed a prayer of relief that I’d been “a happy person” to my nephew. I knew that being happy around him is easy. Being an aunt is fun and involves games, stories, hikes, and all kinds of outings; but what about everyone else – the people who have to see me in the middle of a work crisis, when I get overcharged at a store, when my doctor’s office forgot to call and cancel an appointment? Do those people also see a happy person?
To some, my art work may seem rather boring; but it is much more than decoration to me. Each day the words, “My aunt Laura is a happy person,” remind me to be just that – happy regardless of the circumstances. Children do not sit down to analyze the reasons why someone is kind or mean, calm or angry, generous or miserly, happy or grumpy. They just know the person to be one or the other, and on my own, I will fail quite often. Thankfully, I do not have to rely on myself. I can claim Nehemiah’s words for my own, “the joy of the Lord is my strength.” Nehemiah 9:10b
So when my phone rings, and the person on the other end annoys me half to death, I look at the art on my desk, and I smile.