The Smile

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Two years is a long time. A long time to smile and say Good Morning to someone who looks straight at you and does not speak to you or smile back.

Almost every day for the past two years, coming home from my morning run, I pass an old man on my street. I smile and call out all sing-songy “Good MOOOOOOrniiiiiing,” and he looks at me -- sometimes tipping his head to glower at me over his glasses -- and he says not. a. word. Nor does he smile. Two years. Not even once.

It has become a good-natured joke in the family. Mom saying good morning to the-guy-who-won’t-speak-to her.

It's not a big deal, really. It’s just…I’m there, and he’s there -- smiling and saying good morning seems like the thing to do.

I’m all about “reaching out” (as you know if you read this blog), but I’m also big on respect. About respecting others and not forcing reaching-outness on someone who wants space instead.

So I greet him every morning (and sometimes wave to him from my F-150), but I do no more than that. I try to follow my gut on these things, and my gut tells me to refrain from anything more than my greeting.

I’ve wondered and worried about him over the two years, of course. I’ve looked at his sometimes-unkempt hair and wondered if he was depressed. I’ve noticed a slight change in his gait and wondered if he has a bad hip. I’ve seen him lose weight and wondered if he was sick… But I have held my worried tongue.

SO I WAS SHOCKED

when he called out “Good Morning” to me today.

So shocked that I turned my head to look fully at his face as I ran by. His smile was radiant – like the sun. And by that I mean –

I really do mean –

His face seemed ablaze with light, his expression joyful beyond measure.

I smiled again -- a BIG smile this time -- and moved my hand in a jerky, side-to-side wave, like children do.  (I felt the need to do something extra to mark the occasion, and the second-smile-jerky-wave combo was all that came to mind at the time.)

I ran down the block to my home, charged through the back door, thanked my Boxer for not dragging me all over the greenbelt in search of rabbits, and plopped down on the edge of my bed to remove my running shoes.

The man’s face lingered vividly in my mind’s eye, beaming with joy, lit up with an other-worldly light -- and thinking about that face, I suddenly burst into tears.

I was so happy he was happy. Even if only for today. But it was more than that.

It was his face. Something about the radiant smile. I felt profoundly moved by it. And suddenly I felt joy beyond measure moving through ME.

Now I’m not saying that an angel whispered in my ear:

“You have seen the face of God today.”

But if she had, I would have believed her.

I AM saying, though, that I did hear The Good Voice say:

Merry Christmas.

Merry Christmas, my friends. Rememberrememberremember that God shows up sometimes where we least expect him. Remember too – you can’t see if you don’t look.

Keep showing up. Keep reaching out.

Do this and you just may see the face of God.