Knowing Smiles

A place for everything

I don't know if this story will resonate with any of you. I hope it will make some of you smile; I hope it will make some of you laugh; I hope it connects and clicks, and that you know and understand. I hope it's happened to you--and if it has not, I hope that someday it will.

It was subtle (most changes in life are for that matter and this was like no other), so subtle that only myself and those directly involved were even aware of it. As I was walking into church this Sunday, making my way up the icy sidewalk, a little, nice old lady--I think those of you who know Suzie Flack will agree with my description--spoke to me.

"Hi Neil," she said.

Now, why did this make me smile? Why did it please me so? Why did it make me want to jump and laugh and sing lines out of old Broadway musicals?

While you think about that, think about this: I reached the door and Jack Brossman held it open for me. With a huge grin he said,"There he is." As I said "Good morning" and walked in, his wife gave me a large smile and said "Good morning" as well.

I spent the remainder of the morning smiling and here's why: I've been attending E-Free for at least two years now and there are so many people I still need to get to know--lots of good, solid people I want to know. I have never spoken to Suzie. I've spent time with her husband and gotten to know him over the past two years, but she has never said "hi" to me before. (She's not avoiding me. We just have never been introduced and never crossed paths.) Furthermore, I've never talked to the Brossmans. I wasn't even sure they knew who I was.

So what caused this shift? What caused this interest? What was its source? I believe I know. . .

It is so much fun seeing the consciousness of a large group--seeing it shift and change in a way that is almost palpable, seeing people I know giving me knowing smiles and asking about my weekend plans. It is so much fun having people I don't know seeking me out--wanting to get to know me and sizing me up--and having older men, with their approving smiles, telling me to treat her well because she is one of their favorite people.

To be pursuing and dating one of their daughters is an honor. It feels good--so good--to see how she is loved by the people that know her. It makes me proud of them and the way they look out for her. To be invited over to dinner to tell the story, to be greeted in the parking lot, to receive the support and direction of older and wiser people who know and love her is such a blessing.

As I drove the van to pick up any early-rising freshman who might have braved the cold, as I sat in traffic waiting for the lights to cycle, I thought and prayed for my church. I found it sad that I had not talked to Suzie before, asking myself, "why did it take so long?"

Forgive me, because I'm about to go off on a rather large tangent, but it will tie back in. Ages ago I was reading a collection of mystery stories entitled "Murder for Christmas," a great collection by some of the best mystery writers. In the first story--I forget what it was called and who it was by--the antagonist repeatedly states, "When he comes to me I will forgive him," over and over again, stressing he, me, I and him.

When he comes to me.

Why do I wait on others when it comes to stuff like being nice? I would love it if the Brossmans invited me over for dinner but why am I waiting for an invitation? I live somewhere with a table--or at least I used to. (I've just moved into a new place so I don't have one at the moment.) I should have them over. I would love to talk with Suzie. Why do I wait for her to come to me? I should go to her.

So often I find myself waiting, wanting things to happen, rather than taking the advice I was given as a little kid to go and say "Hi," start the ball rolling and be who I would like them to be to me.

When I go to them, they can tell me.

When I go to them.

It starts with me.

It starts here.



  1. Neil...I read your blogs to Grandma Davis alot...in fact I am talking to her on the phone as I write this and she wanted me to write you for her.... she loves listening to your words and wants you to know she is so proud of you and praying for you and loves you alot. I told her about the beautiful pictures...Your thoughts are so touching and common to all of us and we all feel that way at times....Love You Neil, Grandma Davis Oh, I love you too Neil...Auntie

  2. Profoundly fascinating, Neil. And it's exactly what I've been learning this week with the guys in my house.

    Check out Prov 11:24-26.
    If I feel that I need something, my bother next to me likely needs it even more. By offering freely the thing I require the most, I somehow "gain even more".

    Shall we do lunch sometime?