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Story ID:1434
Written by:Kathe M. Campbell (bio, contact, other stories)
Story type:Musings, Essays and Such
Location:Broken Tree Ranch Montana USA
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When You're Smiling

by Kathe Campbell

As I pulled into the parking lot, there she was, slowly ambling along with head bowed to the pavement, looking up only occasionally to watch for traffic. It was February in our frozen city and this dear old soul was rushing spring in her thin sweater worn over a cotton dress. Heavy brown stockings covered spindly legs while her oversized oxfords flip-flopped upon the pavement in her shuffle. Over one arm she caressed a neatly folded old quilt that looked as worn and tattered as she while using her other arm to balance a frail frame.

I retreated from my truck to tell the yardman he could unload my latest offering for the Thrift Store. Nodding a greeting to the smiling old woman I learned that she often goes without in order to share her meager belongings with others. Her belief was obviously strong in that giving the best you have has its own rewards. "I sometimes tell a little white lie when she asks if a good deserving Christian had bought her rags," winked the young man.

Upon entering the store, my fellow volunteers surrounded me like bees to honey. "Kath, did you by any chance bring us a good quilt today?" I hadn't, but after noting the old woman's gracious donation, it only took me a half second to know I must tear home. I had stared at the goose down comforters in the linen closet that very morning, contemplating giving the smaller one away. No, I decided, if it drops below zero this month, I might need it, and slid the doors together without another thought.

The old lady, who was probably younger than me, but looking older than Methuselah, wandered about the shop touching and feeling neatly folded throws and blankets. She mumbled, and with a sigh and bright smile, shook her head deciding all was too expensive for her meager budget.

"Jiminy Crickets, Kath," whispered one of the clerks. "Are you sure you want to give us your down comforter? I'll lay you odds it will be snapped up by day's end," she assured.

"I have several. This one is for a twin size bed," I murmured across the counter. "I want you to price it in her favor."

"You've got it lady, we'll see to it that she heads home with your goose feathers."

I pondered the significance of the old woman’s big smile, and wondered for a brief moment if a tortured soul was behind it or a genuine reflection of goodness and cheer. It had to be the latter. Nothing on earth can really smile except man, or so it's said. I disagree while contemplating my pup's big smiles, but the lady wore sunshine on her face because she delighted in unmasking another's gloom. Is there anything more selfless than giving away your earthly belongings, no matter how meager?

There are persons so radiant, so genial, so loving and pleasurable that you feel their personalities as they light up a room with their presence. Certain people you can hardly wait to see again and again. As I drove home my thoughts drifted to another encounter with such a soul the previous week. An old friend had rushed after me down a Wal-Mart aisle with her wigged coiffeur comically askance and a portable oxygen tank in her basket.

"Kath, wait up a minute." We hugged our pleasure seeing one another after a long absence until I felt my eyes welling up on hearing she was battling pancreatic cancer. "Oh but no, Kath, you mustn't feel badly for me," while smiling broadly in all her gaunt and insisting she had every intention of beating the death knell. We hugged again, and I loathed seeing her go, for this was a rare being in my long list of life's treasures. I took a page from her book and smiled back with mouth upturned and a silent prayer that she would truly put the good Lord off for a while yet.

Smiling can express our pleasure and disguise our pain. Cheerful people are like sunbeams, radiating cheer in their presence. No one has a right to add to the sorrows of the world by spilling gloom and doom around. Every person creates a certain aura, and our personalities radiate whatever light we shed. It is perhaps one of the most valuable gifts we can bestow upon others, a cheerful spirit at all times, even when we're hurting inside. Hearts that smile give wings to the feet, a kick to the legs, a swing to the arms, and vitality to every motion.

The following week I spent the better part of my morning keeping a young plumber company in the confines of my dreary basement while he installed a new hot water tank. "Stay and talk to me about this neat place where you've lived so long," he invited.

"You sure are a cheerful guy," I commented as he went about his work smiling in-between lyrical whistling.

"Well, I'll tell ya, Kath, - and I hope you don't mind my calling you by your first name – my fiancé died two months ago of a sudden brain embolism. She was just 31, the light of my life, my bride-to-be, and she was gone so quickly I didn't care if I lived or not. Then I meet someone like yourself who is newly widowed after 53 years and I enjoy your cheerful ways and how you and your cute pup manage your new way of life. I think there must be many years of new life for me as well and then maybe I'll smile and whistle at the same time."

Mirth is God's medicine. Everybody ought to bathe in it. Foreboding, moroseness, and the crusty rust of life need only be scoured off by mirth's oil, for it is better than emery. Every person should rub himself with it and surround himself with those who gush joviality and beaming revelry. So put on the gift of a smile, like the old woman who donated her quilt, the cancer patient so full of faith, and the plumber who suffered a personal loss, for it is a light that a joyful heart tells us is waiting with outstretched arms.

As seen in the following website today.