With a Chipped Smile

I just had a quick conversation with a friend.

He’s an older gentleman. He is always put together– a collared shirt with a sweater over it, nice jeans, cowboy boots. Always wears an American flag pin. He’s a smart ass– his humor can be on the racy side. But beyond that tough exterior, he’s a good listener. He’s someone a lot of people count on. He does so much for other people.

Today, I noticed right away he had a chipped tooth. One of his two front teeth. I didn’t want to ask, in case he already felt mortified by it. But there was such a palpable air of sadness to him. Normally he has a smile, a quick joke. A word of encouragement.

Not today. Instead, I saw him working on a puzzle. Dozens of pieces scattered around.

“I don’t have the patience for those,” I told him– I was impressed.
“You have to develop the patience,” he said.

I told him goodbye and walked away.

But decided to turn back. How many times had he asked how I was doing? Every time. And each time, he cared. It was obvious by the way he listened– never in a hurry.

I had left quickly this time because *I* was uncomfortable. I wasn’t sure how to act. I returned and asked him, “Are you okay? You seem sad today.”

He mentioned his chipped tooth, but not how it happened. I didn’t ask. That said a lot about him– he wasn’t interested in sympathy. Many would have told that story– he wasn’t looking for attention. Just giving the facts.

But he deserved to be noticed. Maybe he was hoping someone would ask.

He will be getting dental surgery next week.

“That’s a long time to wait,” I said.

He mentioned money.

I told him I was sorry for his pain, that I hope it goes well. And that I’ll pray for him.

I wish I had stayed longer– but I’ll admit, I just didn’t know what to say.

Certain people are always ready with a smile and joke– we have a hard time seeing them in pain. We are used to them comforting and distracting us.

But they need to be noticed, too. They need someone to listen.

I realized that it *wasn’t* rude to ask about his tooth– the rude thing was avoiding the subject to make it easier for myself.

Please pray for my friend. I’ve never had a chipped tooth, thank goodness.

And in the interim, I hope he finds something to smile about.

At least he has the puzzle to keep him occupied.

Please pray for my friend– so that his tooth doesn’t hurt too much, and he gets a good oral surgeon.

Pray for the man who always has time to listen to others and never asks for himself.

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