I’m driving home from the pool and notice a man walking on the sidewalk, facing me. He’s tall, with a black and white bandana on his head, and moves calmly but purposefully. And he’s smiling, a gentle smile, a truly happy smile. This is not what the sidewalks of my small Oregon town usually hold. There are many who push shopping carts piled high with…I’m not exactly sure. There are others who camp on street corners holding cardboard signs asking for gas money or for work. “I’ll work,” is the gist, “just give me a chance.”
This man is not one of them, or he doesn’t strike me like that nor is his smile manic, laced with disorientation. He makes me happy just to see him. I wonder what he’s thinking, what is causing that smile. I recall times when I’ve thought something that has brought what I think that smile is to my own face. I was driving away from a teaching job one afternoon and saw two kids, maybe 10 or so, a girl and a boy, stop and give each other a hug, before separating and turning down their own streets. When little kids do something so genuine like gazing at a full moon we take for granted with sheer wonder.
I pull into the grocery store parking lot and go inside. There I run into a childhood friend. When I say “childhood,” I mean early childhood when as 5 year-olds we shared neighborhood wading pools and beach days. She’s visiting from the city for a couple days, planned to call me when she got home from shopping and like magic, there we are, wide grins on our faces —what happens whenever we meet.
In fact, now as I watch from the living room window, the Coast Guard members, who occupy a significant place in my community’s heart, for their ever-ready stance and harrowing rescues, are practicing drills in turbulent seas. Their commitment, the boats bobbing like surfers preparing to catch the next wave, makes me happy. Because it’s Beach Clean-Up Day, people and their dogs clamber over the beginning-to-build dunes.
Happiness…. Thank you, man-I-don’t-know, you’ve set this day on a joyful course.