Nathan Hansen, a friend, former student, and all-around bodacious fellow, posted the following on his Facebook page:
"[Have you ever gotten a genuine smile from somebody? Not just that 'look
at me, I'm smiling' smile that everyone in the Northwest can plaster on
their face at will, but an actual, raw smile - one with heart and energy
behind it. I got one from an Asian guy at the library today. He was
coming in on crutches, so I held the door for him. He gave me this big,
stupid grin like he was just over the moon that somebody gave a rip
about him. If I can make one person smile like that, once a day, until I
die, mine will be a life well-spent.]"
Do you share Nathan's sentiment? Does it seem impossible? Let me assure you: it's not. If you'd like to make this kind of difference in the life of someone who is struggling with loneliness, disconnectedness, and loss, consider becoming a nursing home chaplain. Once you are known, the smiles - and also the genuine tears, which are sometimes just as good - pour forth every day. Many times a day, even. Every time. I'm not kidding.
Just today, when the kids and I went to visit Josef, their favorite resident, we found him in the dining room sulking. He prefers to stay in his room but this time a saucy aide made him come out. My littlest boy told him it had just been his birthday, and showed off his presents. Meanwhile, my almost-13-year-old was standing behind me, measuring my height against his and finding out with enormous glee that he has passed me up. Josef thought that was the funniest thing, and he laughed aloud.
From there, I went to the room of a resident who is a pastor. He had failed to show up for Bible Study, so I went to see whether he was OK. He confessed to struggling with depression and I shared that when I was in his shoes, there was a particular Scripture that made a difference. Standing right there in his room, I laid a hand on his shoulder as we opened the word together and had a dramatic reading of Isaiah 45:2-3. There were the tears and the smile all at once, and he committed to praying and asking God to show him the treasures in his darkness.
And on the way out of his room, I ran into Bess, who grinned a huge, toothless grin at me and said, in her slow Kentucky Drawl, "Oh there she is! My friend who got me my Thing for my walker! I got me some tissues in there an' my glasses an' a extra couple packets of sugar an' creamer!" (She received one of the walker caddies from Frank's donation. She calls it her "Thing" (obviously with a capital letter) and every time I visit she eagerly tells me what she's carrying in it today).
See what I mean? There were three instances of the Nathan Hansen Principle in 20 minutes, and that's not in any way unusual. And when Abbie caught me on the way out and said, "Did you hear me ask for prayer for you in the Bible Study? You do so much for so many people I wanted to make sure you got prayed for!" the genuine, heartfelt smile was mine.
The difference is real. Sometimes it's just for a day; sometimes for eternity. And the beauty of it is, it can happen for anyone. If you feel God tugging at your heart, consider becoming a chaplain. The need is great. Pray about it. And if the Lord leads, let me know. I'd love to help you spread some smiles around.