Anyone who knows Jimmy Gardner will know that he cannot keep a frown on his face for long. A smile will break free one way or the other.
I never really learned to appreciate that smile until the memorial service for Laura Snyder-Gardner and Mary Ann Gardner.
Behind that smile is a lesson that we all could learn.
We don’t always get the background story all of the time, and sometimes when it is out in the open, with ashes smoldering, we can only grieve what is lost. The real appreciation of a person doesn’t happen until fate snatches them away.
Instead, I make things about myself so often. If a person smiles, it relates to me being there. (I generally believe that I am a good person and well liked). This isn’t true, and this is something that Jimmy has taught me by example.
Jimmy’s smile doesn’t mean he is happy because I’m there but that he had two wonderful women in his life who taught him how to smile even in the worst of times.
When we smile, we should keep in mind that this is not about ourselves, but how we can convey happiness towards others. When I smile, it is not about how I feel, but how I want others to feel. We can smile to others who cannot help us. We can smile to those who’ve hurt us—not because we are greater than the pain but because joy prevails pain.
When we get to the background story of a person who smiles, we can see both joy and pain. This is when we gain genuine appreciation for all humans who have the capability to bless others in our short years on earth. Watching Jimmy say wonderful things about his mother and sister in the memorial service, my eyes were filled with tears. There was the truth: there was joy in knowing them and the pain of losing them. It took the loss of two people for me to realize this.
Jimmy wasn’t wearing a mask of a smile; he was smiling because he truly found the joy and blessing of having Laura Snyder-Gardner and Mary Ann Gardner in his life.
I want to appreciate the lives of those who are still living, whose human emotions are real—from happiness to sadness, from love to anger, from joy to pain. I have the privilege to smile, knowing that there is love to be cherished. For those who do not smile, I cannot judge because this is not about me. This is about the wonderful people who have taught me to smile for the sake of making a world a better place—bringing peace in times of sorrow.
I walk across campus with a new meaning behind my smile, reminding myself to appreciate the people who gave me joy and to share this happiness with others.