One day when I was a waiter a quiet cook with whom I’d worked for years but with whom I’d rarely spoken looked up from his station and said, “Hello, Mr. Wally!” (That was my nickname.) “You are always smiling, aren’t you, Mr. Wally? You are always happy.” This pleased me more than I could share with him. There were days when my world seemed like a ruin of failure and misguided efforts, and I would drive myself to that job feeling trapped in a cage of my own construction. I would arrive at work, ready to hate the place and everyone in it.
I was glad then that this cook saw me as always smiling and always happy. It was the least I could do. I could not tell this man that simply by smiling back he had saved me from myself. I could not tell this man that his mere presence required that I leave my hole to greet him. You climb out of the hole thinking you’ll dive right back in after hello, but then there’s someone else you know, and now someone’s telling a story, and now you don’t feel like going back in the hole, it’s so dark and lonely and bitter down there.
Plus, there was something so easy about seeing the best in other people. I might have felt the darkness closing in on my own life, but everyone else’s light seemed to burn so bright and clear. Why, they’d only let some fear and confusion obscure that light. If I looked past the fear, if I trained my gaze through the shadow and onto their light, it was as if we could meet there, the two of us, someplace happy we’d both forgotten.
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You can find Bill at: williamkenower.com