Faces on Faith: Ever thought of becoming a smilemaker?
Awhile ago there was an article in the paper called “The Smilemakers” and I remember being drawn to the title, perhaps seeking a bit of relief from reading pages of tragic news and political craziness. There in large type with an even larger photo was the picture of a man carving toy cars for the pediatric patients at NCH Golisano Children’s Hospital. Toys for God’s Kids was the name of the organization he created. There they were, simple, small wooden cars with very little decoration, cars that brought smiles to sick children, smiles that probably lit up the whole room when the box was opened. I thought immediately of the small, wooden crosses we give to people at St. Michael’s, people who are also suffering. Like the toy cars, they are also lovingly carved by another “smilemaker,” a gentleman on Pine Island.
I reflected on the smiles we offer and receive each day on these islands of ours. That moment when someone stops his/her car on Periwinkle and lets you out into the traffic. That person in Bailey’s who lets you in front of them in the cashier’s line because you have one item and they have a cart full. That person who stopped everything to help someone cross the street. That person who invited you to church one day because they knew you were seeking something deeper in your spiritual life. That person who dropped off a meal at your home, or called just to see how you were. That teacher who explained a difficult topic to you in school and did it with such patience, even though it was the third time you’d asked. Simple, loving, compassionate acts accomplished with hands, minds, hearts and souls. Simple acts sometimes done without a word. Simple acts that brought a smile to someone’s face, like the acts of the silent toy woodcarver, or the patient whittler of crosses.
There’s a book called “Sowers and Reapers” and I’ve always loved the title. That image of the farmer tending to small seeds, not knowing when, or where, or how much impact they would have on the barren field – the farmer sowing in silence with heart and hand. Or, the image so many of you know well – those who tend flowering gardens that start small and when nourished, bring smiles to who knows how many passers-by. Whether it’s about toy cars, flowers, or a path into the traffic, it’s all about planting the seeds for smiles whenever we can.
Yes, a smile is such a simple gesture – whether given or received – and often a gesture we neglect to highlight as important or valuable in life. But, what a simple way to sow love and compassion, knowing the amazing potential it has to calm and heal. If you haven’t thought lately of offering someone an opportunity to smile, try it this summer. Sure, there are bigger and more productive ways in which we can reach out to those in need in the world and so many of you do. But, what’s wrong with also encouraging that simple, caring act of a smile? I sometimes end our Sunday service with a blessing that includes the following: “Life is short and we don’t have much time to gladden the hearts of those who travel this earthly pilgrimage with us; so be swift to love and make haste to do kindness.” I could add, “Become a smilemaker.”
-Rev. Dr. Ellen Sloan, rector, St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church