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Have Smile, Will Travel
by Jerry Rasmussen
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When it comes to the children of God, we are all gifted. We may grow up believing that when it came to handing out talents, we got in the wrong line, but that’s because we don’t recognize our gifts. How many times have you heard someone say, “I wish I had his talent!” They’re usually talking about an actor or musician. If you tell them “We all have talents,” they immediately respond, “Not me, I don’t have any.” Their definition of talent is too limited. I’ve always loved the passage In Romans where the apostle Paul writes about the body of Christ

For as we have many members in one body, all members have not the same office;
So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.
Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy according to the proportion of faith;
Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering, or he that teacheth on teaching.
Romans 12: 4-7 KJV

And because we are of one body, Paul encourages us:

Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honor preferring one another.
Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer.
Romans 12: 10 & 12 KJV

We all have many gifts that the Lord has bestowed on us. Some can sing with the voice of an angel while others can make an old engine purr like a kitten. Some have a way with words, while others always seem to know exactly what needs to be done when there’s a problem. Some gifts may seem grandiose while others seem too modest to even be thought of as gifts. Any gift used in the service of the Lord is of great value. Something as simple as a smile may be a great blessing to others.

We had just boarded the cruise ship in Amsterdam, our hearts filled with anticipation about visiting Scandinavia and northern Europe. We’d been weeks in preparing, and after a two hour delay, we finally were cleared to board the ship. Because the cabins weren’t ready, we decided to spend some time exploring the ship. With eleven decks, we wouldn’t run out of interesting places to see. We’d had a long day waiting to board the ship and we ran out of energy long before we ran out of ship. After a wrong turn here and there, we ended up in the Seaside Café, more than ready to enjoy a relaxing dinner. With two thousand passengers on board and long lines for the buffet we were fortunate to find an open table.
No sooner had we sat down and settled in when a woman approached our table. I’d noticed her wandering around looking for a place to eat without success, and there were two unoccupied chairs at our table.

“Do you mind if I join you” she asked
“Not at all, please do,” I responded.

When I looked up to see her approaching our table, the first thing that struck me was the warmth of her smile. It was the kind of smile you’d expect when you looked up to see an old friend, and yet we’d never met.

“My name is Rita,” she offered
“I’m Jerry, and this is my wife, Ruth.”
“I’m traveling alone,” she said. My travel agent paired me with a woman who was a single passenger, too. We share a cabin, but I really don’t know her.”

I wasn’t surprised to hear that. We’d only been on the ship a couple of hours. But then, it certainly didn’t take long for Rita to get to know me and my wife. Her smile was a table-warmer. When someone is at ease with themselves, they put everyone else at ease, and it wasn’t long before we were lost in conversation. As it turned out, Rita had lived in Connecticut, not far from where we live and had moved to Arizona three years ago. She had friends in the town next to ours and she visited there often. We might easily have passed on the street. Instead, we met in Amsterdam.

In the days that followed, I’d occasionally see Rita. She was usually sitting at a table with people I’d never seen her with before. There is a lot you can tell about a conversation, just with a quick glance. It’s not necessary to hear what people are talking about, or even the tone of their voices. I could see Rita and her new-found friends leaning toward each other over the table, listening with rapt attention. One smile begets another, and you could hear the sound of laughter floating across the room.

The only other time we spent with Rita was in St. Petersburg, Russia where we shared the same tour bus. There wasn’t much conversation because our whole group was constantly moving. We did cross paths long enough to take pictures of each other and we said that we’d keep in touch after the tour.

On the final day of our cruise as we were on our way to dinner, we passed through the Rendezvous Lounge . We’d sat there several times before, listening to the young woman singing old standards with a small, three-piece jazz combo called Kathleen and the Saints.. The song she was singing as we entered the room was an old familiar one.

Light up your face with gladness,
Hide every trace of sadness.
Although a tear may be ever so near
That's the time you must keep on trying
Smile, what's the use of crying.
You'll find that life is still worthwhile-
If you just smile.
Charlie Chaplin, lyrics

And I did.

One thing about a smile: you can take it anywhere. It is as welcome in a checkout counter at the neighborhood supermarket as it is on a cruise ship anchored in the Amsterdam harbor. Smiles can speak volumes. They can offer encouragement and lift the spirits in a way that words sometimes can’t.

For the last five years, Ruth and I have participated in a monthly church service at a local health care center with our friend Rev. Ken Smith. Each of us brings a gift. Ken brings the Word and an uplifting message, I bring my guitar and sing three or four gospel songs, and Ruth brings her smile. I’m sure that for some of the people, her smile does as much to uplift them as the message and the music. Ruth and I usually arrive first and while I am setting up my guitar and amplifier, Ruth moves around the room, stopping to talk with each of the residents. Many of them recognize Ruth and I know they look forward to seeing her. She approaches them with an outstretched hand which she often rests gently on their shoulder.

“How are you doing today?” she asks.

Her smile is reassuring and their faces light up. She reaches down and takes their hand and for a moment, the cares of the day are washed away. They speak openly of their fears and loneliness because they know they can confide in her. The conversations are brief, because there are many residents to stop and talk with, but her smile says it all. It says, “I care about you,” and when they pour out there heart to her, it says, “You’ll be alright, the Lord is with you. He hasn’t forgotten you.” Smiles speak eloquently.

In the fifties, Richard Boone played a gunfighter named Palladin on a tv series. His business card said “Have gun, will travel.” You could say the same thing about a smile. Don’t leave home without one.

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