Furr column: The light that is Timmy's smile

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 18, 2011

A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength. Proverbs 17:22ust every once in a while, you may stumble across an extraordinary individual, if you are so blessed. Such extraordinary people often contribute to the lives of others by instilling strong motivation, as would great coaches. Others may be a blessing by being great teachers, sharing wonderful insights into the complexities of life that might otherwise be missed. Some are extraordinary examples, perhaps of bravery or nobility or talent. Some are even extraordinary for more obscure reasons — and the requirements for being truly extraordinary don’t necessarily include possessing an advanced degree, having a lofty station, or being ennobled by usual stereotypes.
Some just have an extraordinary heart, and that, my friends, is extraordinary of the best sort.
My family often stops at a certain local grocery store. Not only does this store happen to have (in our opinion) the best foods and great deli sandwiches at a reduced price on Fridays, but it also has Timmy.
Actually, most importantly it has Timmy. Timmy the Kindhearted. Timmy the Extraordinary. If you have but once seen him, you know of whom I speak.
When we go to this store, I like to park outside and listen to the radio while my wife and son go in for the hunt. This provides me with a much-needed “quiet time” that I otherwise never get. Financial conditions being as they are for many, this quiet time is often wasted in some level of stress, or distress … privately wondering how bills will get paid or when we will next get to see a doctor. Moods are often at very low ebb, with a lump in the throat or an aching heart playing its somber accompanying dirge.
Such was I, sitting outside this store. Then I noticed a fellow striding briskly out, company vest flapping in the breeze, and a huge smile beaming across his broad face. I could easily tell this fellow was loving life and living large, happily enjoying the sunny autumn afternoon and fully at peace with his corner of the world. He sailed the parking lot like a three-masted schooner heading downwind in a fresh breeze, raced over to a brace of errant shopping carts lurking in a corner as if they were gossiping about something or other, and trundled them towards the storefront.
Noticing my wary stare from 80 feet away, he flashed a huge grin and a giant thumbs up to me, as happy to see me as if I was his long-lost best friend freshly back from an extended and particularly dangerous world tour. I slouched down a little lower in my Honda’s seat, embarrassed at being spotted staring and gave a small and properly quick formal wave back, pulling the visor down to obscure me a tad more from his shining visage.
Thereafter, every time this jocular fellow came out, he widely acknowledged my presence, smiled warmly, and continued working hard at his job. I wondered about him, his name, and what his story might be.
For months we continued coming to the store, and nearly every time we were there, I saw this fellow. I spotted him busily sweeping floors, and sometimes bagging groceries, but usually he was on his “prime directive” to bring back in the shopping carts customers scatter willy-nilly across the lot.
One time late in the evening I noticed a vehicle pull up, and he got in. In the bright dome lighted cabin I could see the familiar big grin on his face as he greeted what appeared to be his family. They looked happy together. I was glad.
Did you ever notice how hard it is to feel down when you are around someone who is truly, genuinely, perfectly and gloriously happy? It is darn near impossible, and I was delighted to have discovered this valuable secret within my dark cloud.
I started looking forward to the relief I would feel when I watched this fellow. I could sense my mood immediately lifting as the emotional weights were shed. I purposely tried to spot him, hoping to catch a glimpse of what true joy looked like in the flesh. Stock market down? Who cares. Bills past due? It’ll be OK until tomorrow. Wife mad at me? Sure, but so what? That’s a dime a dozen occurrence. I know what true joy looks like and I like it.
Finally, I met this loving guy face to face at the entrance alcove to the store and got the opportunity to tell him how much I appreciated his warm grin every time I saw him. He eagerly offered me his huge, meaty hand in a warm handshake and introduced himself. Timmy he was. I was Gordon, and very happy to finally meet him. Conversations ensued over time, a tidbit here, a tad there. I understand he is a big video game aficionado. Loves Transformers. His father refers to him affectionately as “his Bubba.”I can see why. A lucky dad he is.
Now, whenever I go to the store, and see him recognizing my car, the big wave and smile have grown even larger (I don’t know how). Each time I see Timmy, I leave a happier, and better, man.
I find it amazing that just this one fellow, with just his smile, has changed many times the way I felt about my world and future.
What would happen if more people would share joy as freely as Timmy? I would dearly love to know. Wouldn’t you? I can see by watching this one extraordinary man that I surely have a long way to go, but by going with a smile I can leave sunshine on the trail.
Gordon Furr lives in Salisbury.