Sunday, April 15, 2012

Joy to spare.

I saw this man in the clinic the other day whose smile lit up the room like fireworks. His weathered skin looked like tobacco leaves that had been rinsed and dried in many suns. And just like those leaves it appeared to have gone through a long process to get to that perfect shade of reddish-brown. Unlike that tobacco, though, nothing about him was poisonous.

At all.

I watched him talking to the resident. I had introduced myself but after that wasn't saying much during this encounter. Instead I just studied this Grady elder sitting before us.

Something about that act slowed everything down. His leathery hands moved in slow motion as did the whole moment. Like a silent movie going at half the normal speed. And that smile. Oh that smile.

With each laugh, his light-brown eyes disappeared behind redundant folds of eyelids; hidden in joyful slits created by the new horizon of those smiling cheeks. Eyebrows untamed and peppered with silver hairs perfectly framing those eyes and their crows' feet that reached clear into his scalp.

And that smile. Oh, that smile.

That smile was so wide that it peeled back his lips and revealed the top and bottom rows of his teeth. These weren't dentures either. They were his. Imperfectly perfect and all his. His teeth were a shade of beige. Four of the top ones were perfectly rimmed in gold, which sparkled each time he smiled. And he smiled often so I got to take it all in.

Finally, I spoke.

"I love your smile, sir."

And in response, of course, he smiled. Full and genuine. . .selflessly presenting it like some sort of offering. Then he said, "That's joy you see."

I had watched him for nearly two minutes. And since it was really in slow motion, that was really more like twelve minutes. He was right. That was exactly what I saw. Joy.

"I can see your joy, sir."

"The Lawd been good to me. I got joy to spare!"  He patted his chest, threw back his head and then laughed deep and throaty. Joy oozed from his lips and coated every square inch of that room.

"Joy to spare." I repeated that wisdom so I wouldn't lose it. I said it again in my head, Joy to spare.

"We all got joy to spare, you know. At least we should." Another smile. Another laugh.

I wanted some of his joy so when he reached his hand out to me, I took it. Took that offering because he wanted me to have it and he had more to spare. I held his hand tightly and felt his energy. Then, while touching him, I let those words resonate in my soul.

"We all got joy to spare, you know. At least we should." 

Yes, we do. And yes, we should.

And this, my friends? This is the Grady Hospital I know and love.

Happy Sunday.


  1. Well, you know I love this story. Then I scroll down and watch the Caine video and it occurs to me that even at such a young age, Caine has already discovered the joy that the Grady elder lives. Maybe all of us are born with it. The key is keeping it.

  2. This was right on time. Thanks.

    Maria, fellow Meharrian

  3. I love this-we all got joy to spare,made me smile and think today!

  4. the Lawd is Good! thank you for spreading his joy! i can see it- oh i miss those grady elders.


"Tell me something good. . . tell me that you like it, yeah." ~ Chaka Khan

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