Finding Something To Smile About

From there to here, from here to there, funny things are everywhere. –Dr Seuss

I don’t guess I get accused much of being a fun guy. Or a high energy person. Truth be known, I stay lost in deep thought so much that kids might accuse me of being like the cartoon character Droopy (if they had any idea who Droopy even is).

Though I may conceal emotion and excitement a little too well, I differ from Droopy in one major way: I love to find things to laugh and smile at. And I love spending time with people who make me do both of those things.

If I got to choose what to do with my time, my first choice would be standing on a beach, surrounded by my family, with a fishing rod in my hand. My second choice would be to be sitting in my recliner, alone reading books and listening to bad hair metal from the 80’s.

That second choice is the one that would get me in trouble. Doing what we “want” to do is often miles apart from what we “need” to do. My high school freshman son mostly likes staying home and learning virtually during the pandemic. It’s what he wants but it’s definitely not what he needs. Not what is best.

We might choose paths of convenience when tempted by them, but the truth is we need to be challenged. And more importantly, we need to find ways to place ourselves in the presence of other people to laugh, smile, learn, and share life together. But we are living in a time where it has never been easier to avoid other people. Avoiding people is a path worth avoiding.

Back in July, the principal at the middle school where I coach girls basketball approached me with the simple question of whether I was going to coach this season. At the time, because of COVID, it seemed doubtful that we would get to have our season. I was working from 70-80 hours each week and didn’t see things letting up. My answer to him was, “Sure, as long as we aren’t starting in the next couple of weeks”. We started in three weeks.

I mentioned earlier that I’m not a high energy guy. I had my doubts about pulling it off. Once practices began, most days consisted of working 8 hours, coaching 4-6 hours, and going home to work some more.

About a month into the season, I shared a strange revelation with my wife, “I’m putting in 16 hour days and I feel better physically and mentally than I have in a long time.

Soon after I understood why- the simple blessing of spending all those hours with other people. Good people.

I had a group of basketball players that seemingly couldn’t wait to get in the gym for each practice. They laughed a lot and they smiled a lot. And some of those smiles could always light up the room. The joy they created was contagious. It created a place that I always looked forward to returning to.

And what did this boring middl-aged man do for them in return? I took my mask off. Sort of. Coaches are required to wear masks at all times. But I chose to apply the “wear a mask when social distancing is not possible” guideline. I kept my distance, spoke clear instructions not through a mask, and I shared in the fun. When they made me smile or laugh, they could see me smiling and laughing. And when these young ladies, stuck playing by awkward guidelines at an awkward age in life made mistakes in games, they could usually look toward the bench to find their coach (with his mask pulled down to his chin) smiling and saying, “It’s ok”.

I know how abundantly blessed I am. I spend my work days with good people. I spend my evenings with great family. And I spend Sundays and other times with great church family. And I know those things keep me sane in these insane times.

And I spend the vast majority of my hours each day wearing a mask on my chin, not over my mouth. I want people to see me smile. I want to bring a laugh or a smile to every situation. It’s better to be unmasked, distanced, and human than it is to be up close, masked, and robotic.

I’m definitely not trying to offer reckless medical advice. I know everybody doesn’t have the option of working in gyms or open-spaced workplaces.

But I think we all have the option of making the place we’re at……..a place that other people want to be. Sharing smiles and laughter is always a good place to start. Stay out of other people’s space. Don’t stay out of their lives.

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