Brow furrowed into the perpetual frown that only deepens with age. Living with anger and petulance, distancing himself from others and never content. Trying to control the world, but for some reason the world has not cooperated. Miserable, and living in continued misery. Forever keeping joy at a distance. We all know someone like that.

I love studying the faces of people as they pass, imagining what they are like. What career they occupy. Do they yell at their children? Their wife? Disdain their husbands? Themselves? Or are they kind? Someone accustomed to caring, laughter and hard work. The older a person is, the more the lines of a life, well lived or poorly so, imbed on their face.

old-woman-smilingI want the tracks of my life to curl upward around the eyes, the cheek. The soul. So I practice smiling. I practice joyful thinking. I say I practice, because I have not mastered it yet. Life happens. But I choose how to think about it.

Years ago, I worked as a home health nurse, traveling from home to home throughout the day providing treatment for those mostly homebound. They say you shouldn’t have favorites–wait, that’s for one’s children, right? I definitely had my favorite patients. In fact there was one in particular that I would schedule to visit following my most difficult and depressing cases.

Gladys lived in constant, debilitating pain from rheumatoid arthritis and degenerative disc disease. Her arms were permanently bent at the elbow, her fingers looked more like W’s, She could barely walk, and a walker was of little use since she was unable to grip it. As if that weren’t bad enough, her husband was developing Alzheimers.

But Gladys was joyful. Always doing for others. She would wrap hard plastic curlers around her fingers so she could crochet without the yarn catching on the bony protuberances of her fingers. A pair of booties she made me, one significantly larger than the other, became my prized possession. She always greeted me with smiles, found the funny side to every situation, and by example, taught me how I could live. Taught me that when things were bad, someone else had it worse, so I should be thankful. Gladys’s face had wrinkles in all the right places.

I want to be one of those old ladies with lots of wrinkles showing the road of life having been well lived. I want wrinkles in all the right places. So, even when I don’t feel like it, I practice smiling. The more I practice, the more it sinks in.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things. (Philippians 4:8 NIV)

 

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