Smile-stealers

He had a great smile. When he came into the room, you just had to feel better. Now, don’t take this wrong because this was long ago in a land where I knew nothing of Christ, but most of the time we were up to no good, and his presence only caused us to loosen up more. Whether we were surfing or hanging out on the beach listening to some R&B or Blues, he was usually there. No, he wasn’t a great surfer. Maybe he wasn’t even good. But what he lacked in ability he more than made up in presence. And it was a good presence. Puppy dog eyes, and a grin that was all teeth and white as the beach we were on.

He could elicit a laugh from you by just showing up. What a gift. Way back when, it was just a long time ago, we were all surfed out and sitting in the VW microbuses right on the beach. “The Swash,” it was called. It was hot, and we were “surf-satisfied.” What a feeling. Summer time, surfed out. You could surf anywhere on the beach in those days. We had our music blaring, with the doors swung open, laughing, cutting up, and just having a grand old time. A couple of young African-Americans about 11 years old walked up; attracted by the music of James Brown pumping from our surf-mobiles. My friend, I’ll call him “Smiley C-dog,” jumped out and started doing the James Brown slide. Those young boys laughed and laughed. Then they told “Smiley,” “Give me a quarter and I’ll show you how it’s really done.” We all chipped in and put up a couple of bucks, and there goes “Smiley” and the two young lads shuffling, spinning, even doing splits, all the while the Godfather is screaming, “Heyyyyyyy! Git on da good foot!” It was hilarious. All of this on a summer afternoon, in a parking lot by the ocean with a group of friends. What a memory. I’ve still got some old 8mm movies of it.

“Smiley” was the only one brave enough to jump in and give it a go. Man, he made me laugh that day. He made me laugh many days. Every now and then someone comes along that just lights up the world. When we were together the world seemed right. The problems and all of the angst of our generation seemed to evaporate with every grin, and laugh. But a few days ago the brokenness of this world broke in on “Smiley,” and his wife. How unfair is this world? The brokenness came in the form of a thief with a gun. Right there in their own home, it ended, for both of them. The stealer of the smile has yet to be caught, and we all long for that it, that presence of the smile once again.

Cherish the “Smiley’s” you have in your life, and enjoy every moment of laughter. This broken place called earth is a robber, full of selfishness and greed, and sometimes it will crash into our laughter and take the smile away. But you know what? There’s always another one coming. God will see to that, and one day He will settle the score with all of the “stealers of smiles.”

The best we can do for “Smiley” is to become one – grin our way into battle with this earth – smile our way through the brokenness and bring some laughter, joy, and hope to a place that needs some good news. “Smiley,” you’ve left a legacy as big as your grin.

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