“The harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph... I love the man that can smile in trouble, that can gather strength from distress and grow.” - Thomas Paine
I was coming out of Joanne's Fabrics, where I buy my polymer clay to make beads for jewelry that will eventually end up in a shop at Etsy. I should have stayed put that day, but I needed a certain shade of brown to complete a project. So, I ignored a nagging headache and headed out in the wind and rain.
The store was crowded, and everyone seemed to be trying to beat the next storm. Good! They had several shades of brown, plus lots of other light Spring colors, all on sale. I grabbed a handful of clay blocks and headed for the checkout, where six or seven people waited their turn in line.
Nobody talked. Nobody made eye contact. The store was eerily quiet, except for the approaching tap-tap-tap of an elderly man's cane. He walked in measured steps, holding his wife's arm, gently guiding her to the door.
They walked as one, like a couple who knew their place in this world, and loved the rhythm of their dance together. I'm not ordinarily a gawker, but I couldn't look away. He reminded me of my grandpa, who passed away when I was 19. The way he wore his tweed hat, the way his eyes crinkled at the corners. I hoped he would glance up, and he did - just in time for me to catch the upturn of a radiant smile. This was a face that smiled from chin to forehead. That smile is unforgettable; tatooed in the silver lining of my memory.
Life is walked out in measured steps. I hope when I'm their age, I'll remember to walk in gratitude and to pause long enough to give away smiles to strangers. I hope I never forget the blessing of being able to move about, even with a cane, and to share moments like that with people I'll most likely never see again.