You Can Still Make Me Smile

A man is defined in life by what other people say about him. That is the theme of The Christmas Carol. His self opinion matters not if noone likes his character and what he professes to say about himself has no merit.  A indelible impression a man leaves with those behind is not how he lives on this world but how he makes others feel about being here, about their choices, their opportunities or lack of.   Did he try to help other people during the time God gave him to do so?  Was he someone who gave others guidance or try to make the world a better place in some small way?

I met a man years ago with one of those beer belly laughs.  You didn't have to know what he was laughing about to find the joke funny.  As soon as you heard the laughter from
across the room within your earshot,  you were  laughing too.  His smile was from ear to ear and it lit up the room!  He enjoyed making everyone happy, sincerely loved it. He was one of those rare individuals who knows life is short lived, make the most of the time you have here.  His smile has taught those around him all they need to know about life. Enjoy it immensely!

Funny how some folks, on the service, seem like they don't take much of anything in life seriously.  This friend is one of them.  I suppose some people who haven't taken time to get to know him may take it for granted that he takes life very light-heartedly. But don’t be fooled by a  jovial spirit and carefree candor. Sometimes these people can be the ones God has created that are testing us all.

Yes, these are the few that inside the smiles and twinkles in their eyes have the hearts of gold, the spirits that are kind and forgiving and the ability to care unconditionally.   They can be the ones that can carry a cross, fall down with it and laugh getting back up.  Oh, can you  be in a crowd, and keep moving forward with a grin inspite of being in emotional or physical pain?  Many of us cannot, preferring to shy away from others and certainly not offer hope when we are hurting ourselves.  But not this man, he finds some source from within to offer something to others in pain regardless of his load in life. 

There is nothing wrong with pulling away from others when you are hurting and needing to to take care of yourself. But it can be done to an extreme where isolation occurs and that is not healthy either. It is important to know when to ask for help from others also. The strong man, of devout faith, knows when to do this. My friend does.  He knows also to first go to God. 

When others would sit in sorrow as not having the freedom to walk as they would like, the luxury of being self-sufficient, he will not succumb to a disease. No, he pushes with what strength he has, he is a living example of a man with determination.   A strong man does what he needs to do sometimes to show the world you can still get out and be human even if it means riding in a scooter or being wheeled in a cart. On a bad day, he will stay in and be sorrowful and on an okay day, he will get out and soak up some sun and listen to laughter and inspire some others.  Being a man is giving yourself the permission to have humility when you need it and allowing other people in your life to give you gifts of service. It is also giving those that care about you the joy of seeing you alive, even if it is not in the full range of motion you once were. 

Many weak-hearted people want to give up when the going gets tough.  Living life at half-mast, when your limbs are not working well,  and pain becomes an everyday occurrence is jolting.  How do you transition nicely into this?  My friend is a living breathing role model of a man who has done just this with strength of character, compassion for others and love of life.

When I see him, I still see the comedian there. He finds humor in little things every day. He

even laughs at himself, his own frailty. He doesn't ask, nor does he want any sympathy. He does want, I think, understanding so as to widen the knowledge base of the health condition for others and for his family.  But as for him, he takes the good moments when he can get them. He loves and soaks up positive energy from where he can obtain it and still manages to give it off in so many ways, it is simply astounding.

No longer does my friend stand up to tell a joke. No longer does he walk in circles nor talk loudly as his voice is weaker.  But the strength he possesses as a man has grown tenfold over the years.  He doesn't stand in the center of the circle when activities are going on these days, preferring to sit on the outskirts now and simply observe as if he is on the sidelines of a football game. It is definitely teaching a lesson to many around him that enjoyment out of life can be from sitting back and soaking it in, you do not have to be actively on center stage.  

Some days I worry that my friend sees himself as weak when he is so strong.  God is using him and he is walking through the plan prepared just for him.  I imagine he is getting high
praise for it as I write this because I see all the signs there.  Even on his darkest days, he has the ability to be caring and compassionate towards others.  What a gift.  True to the first time I met him, he has retained his unmistakable quick witted sense of humor that can take you by surprise and leave you with that what did you say look on your face!

He is easier to overlook in a group than before but I pity the fool that does so. Simply because a man can't stand or shout does not mean he doesn't posses the richest gift we can gain from this world. Have you figured out yet what that is?

The truest testimony to a man is the value people around him place on his friendship and life. My friend is treasured by his family and loved ones; it is in his daughter’s eyes when she looks at him.  So apparent, the love in her eyes.  Everyone that knows him well cares about him. His jokes and laughs use to light me up. Now I get that from just being near him or hearing he is having a good day. I am, like so many other lives he touched,  forever changed.  

Dedicated to my dear friend John Petty.

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