THE IDLE AMERICAN: Give Smiles a Try…

Songs are often slathered in over-simplification. We’ve generally gone along with the musical proclamation that our smiles trigger the rest of the world to smile with us.

Wait a minute. The world ignores, remaining ambivalent, whether we’re smiling or not.

This is not to say there is not value in smiles; they are worthwhile if they do nothing more than brighten a few lives in our own little world. Even slight grins help, and they buy a few seconds while we’re trying to think what to say next.

Such instruction is helpful to grandparents. A current example is provided by Dr. Lanny Hall, Chancellor of Hardin-Simmons University. A while back, he told his 12-year-old granddaughter a joke that would result in her aisle-rolling.

The chiseled-in-stone expression on Ada McCutchen’s face didn’t change, however. Dr. Hall asked if she thought it was funny. Bad idea! Her blank face “spoke” boldly, clearly indicating a “zero” response on her applause meter. He should have known it was an in-your-face response, better than pie-in-the-face, but just barely.

“You know what I think is funny, Poppy? That you think you’re funny.”

Surely there are throngs of grandparents who’ve “been-there, done-that.”

I cringed a couple of years ago when my then nine-year-old granddaughter asked my age. “78,” I answered.

“Did you start at one?” she wanted to know.

Ordinary people often reach pinnacles of success by clinging always to optimism, even when dealt bad hands.

I never knew a more consistent optimist and effective pastor than the late Rev. Miller Robinson, a beloved West Texas pastor who “forged on” despite the constant pain of rheumatoid arthritis during most of his adult life.

Doctors at Temple’s Scott and White Hospital diagnosed the terrible disease when he was in his late 20s. “I’m afraid you’ve got the ‘honky-tonk’ disease,” one doctor said. “You’ll wake up every morning with pain in a different joint.”

Who knows? Robinson may have “reconstructed” the wording slightly. Whatever, he enjoyed telling the story in sermons and at banquet lecterns. He was blessed with both “wit and wisdom.” His subtle smile always added to his upbeat nature.

He was never visibly preoccupied with his own health issues. Instead, Robinson was all about “thee and thine,” and never “me and mine.”

The pastor had a clever response when grateful folks at Snyder’s Colonial Hill Baptist Church gave him and wife Sandra the parsonage during his 32-year ministry there. He lamented that he had little time to properly thank them. “I have to hurry on down to the courthouse to make sure the home isn’t valued too high on the tax rolls,” he said.

Part of the appeal of southern gospel quartets is their apparent happiness, despite their inescapable challenge of travelling long distances between concerts. They, too, are augmented by laughter, smiles and funny stories between songs.

They had a twin-bill of quartets a while back in Cleburne. On stage were The Blackwood Brothers, now “at it” for 84 years, and The Inspirationals, a family that started back in the 1950s.

“In the early going, we were travelling in vans while the ‘higher rollers’ were in fancy big rigs,” said Bob Wills, long identified with The Inspirationals.

They learned that a bus would be offered at an auction.

It was a “junker,” but better than their old vans. The Inspirationals made a modest bid. It was the only one, so the auctioneer took it off the block, moving on to other items. Wills, noticing the bus’s diesel engine was left running, feared this could cause great damage. So, he turned off the diesel switch.

As the group was leaving, the auctioneer invited the men to return. “The old engine has stopped and it won’t start. If you guys want the old bus, you can have it for free.” They did, and it served them for several years.