#171 “What a Smile!”

From Arantxa in Santa Marta, Colombia

When I was in high school, my circle of friends just happened to also be friends with a man in his mid-30s by the name of Jeff. Because of extensive drug use during his own high school years, Jeff had sustained some serious and permanent brain damage and was forced to take a number of medications in order to keep his moods regulated and his brain functioning somewhat properly. It was actually a very sad story, and in the end it served as a great lesson for all of us to simply leave drugs alone. We had a painfully vivid first-hand account of what they could do to you if things got out of control.

Anyway, as my friends and I grew to know Jeff, one of the most entertaining features of our relationship was the fact that he would share with us stories of his high school sexual escapades and extensive drug use. Many of these stories were wildly improbable and completely depraved, and the simple-minded delivery that Jeff would employ was often just as hilariously astounding as the actual details of the stories themselves. Of course, these anecdotes were entirely inappropriate for us to be listening to, but this fact made them all the more attractive. Also, I know that your Spidey Senses might start tingling when you think about a man almost 20 years older than us telling us stories about sex and drugs, but what you have to realize is that intellectually and socially, Jeff was actually on about the same level as we were. We practically viewed him as a peer, and I am fully convinced that we were never in danger in any way when we were with him. In fact, as I mentioned earlier, his stories often served as a very effective warning for us.

Also, even though Jeff’s stories about his own high school experiences were raunchy and completely immoral, as an adult he was more calm, gentle and caring than any man I had ever met. I never heard him say one cross word to or about another living being, and he was always respectful in the extreme. In fact, when urged to speak about girls or women that he thought were attractive, Jeff would always say the same thing: “She was a real pretty smile.” That was it. After all of his wild adventures, mild-altering trips and sexual conquests, that was all that Jeff had to say about women.

I can still remember being completely shocked but also very impressed by this. There was a simple truth in that statement about a pretty smile that rang true to me, even as a self-asborded teenager. I know it sounds strange, but in a small way Jeff actually taught me a greater respect for women and he instilled within in me the idea that the beauty of a smile was perhaps the most valuable feature that a person could have. Now, as an adult I look around at this materialistic and over sexualized culture that we live in today, and I believe it’s important to return to that simplistic appreciation for a kind and caring smiling.

In the end the reason why I have said all of this is because this beautiful illustration by Arantxa takes me back to that wonderful, youthful appreciation for the smile. Thank you, Arantxa, for the reminder. You could have drawn just about anything: a sexy wolf in lingerie, a savage wolf feeding on a human feast. But no, you chose to focus on a subject of beauty, innocence and kindness, and that is truly what the world needs now.

Never stop smiling, Arantxa. After all, when you get ready to start your day, a smile is the most important thing you can put on.


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