Smile, Somebody Needs You!

A few weeks ago I visited a couple in a hospital in Los Angeles. They were friends of friends of mine, and they were in Los Angeles because the wife required treatment for a very rare condition. They had traveled many miles from their home state and really didn’t have close ties with people in my area.

I went to the hospital mainly to meet and visit with the husband. I imagined that his sadness and uncertainty would be compounded by loneliness and isolation. We talked in the courtyard of a small hotel connected to the hospital. As so often in my experience, I was amazed and blessed by this man’s faith and joy, all the more compelling because of his family’s uncertain future and confusion about God’s intentions. Their young children were at home with their loving grandparents, so he was missing them and thinking about how they were managing their own uncertainty.

As I learned more about his wife’s condition and what he told me about her spirit, he mentioned that she was concerned that her smile would be erased from her countenance by the surgery that had been done. He said that her smile was her trademark feature. Many would comment on the effect it had on them when she met them. Would that change? he wondered. This moved me deeply.

After some time, this adoring husband invited me to go to her room to meet her—assuming, of course, that she would be awake and willing to entertain a visitor, someone she had never met and who was not there in any official capacity.

When we reached the entrance to her room, he went in, then came out to say that she would be pleased to meet me. “Pleased” to meet me?

She had only recently had the major surgery that had caused some paralysis in her face. She was weak. But she reached out to shake my hand. Her right eye was bandaged. And sure enough, her face was somewhat contorted. There was no evidence, though, that she was uncomfortable to have me there.

Two things struck me. First, she was more concerned for the hospital staff—the doctors and nurses around her—than she was with own situation. This was a deep spiritual concern that was clearly genuine. She was ministering to them. Talk about a patient’s beside manner! And second, she had this wonderful smile.

This young couple has since returned home. I hear that she’s convalescing well. Today I got a text message from our mutual friends, relaying thanks for my hospital visit. I had to say that it was my joy to meet her and that her smile is wonderful. All by itself it is a ministry to others.

Of course, as time passes, the paralysis may subside and her countenance return to normal. But her joy and concern for others has not lapsed. And people who meet her will feel that a need in their own soul has been touched—even by something as simple as a smile.

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