Smiling Eyes

It was a short run into the grocery store before work for a few apples and coffee creamer, but the only checkout line was long, too long.

The lady at the front of the line was an elderly lady and the bagger said something I couldn’t understand, then walked out with her to put her groceries in her car.  The next person checked out and was on the way out when the bagger returned.

The man bagging was probably 65 years old and had a round face with sharp features and a big pleasant smile.  The lady in front of me checked out ten or twelve items and the man’s face seemed locked into a smile.  He’d grab a couple of items, glance at the checker and customer, as if searching for something in their faces, and then bag the next items.

After the lady paid, the man handed her grocery bags to her and said something, but again, I didn’t understand him.  She smiled, spoke back to him and he laughed out loud beaming a huge smile.

I wasn’t paying attention when the checker checked me out.  I swiped my card, spoke to the checker and turned to grab the plastic sack from the bagger.  I caught a glimpse of his hearing aids just as he said in garbled words like someone severely deaf….at least I think he said, “I love eat apples!  And coffee!” 

Despite the huge smile plastered on his face accented with deep smile wrinkles, when I looked directly in his pale blue eyes, his eyelids were round, as if everything smiled on his face except his eyes.

His face said everything was fine, but his eyes spoke cautiousness, emptiness, loneliness, rejection, being misunderstood, pain.

Smiling Eyes story

I felt my own face burst into a smile and the man’s big smile, expression and everything else on his face remained exactly the same, except his eyes.  His round eyes immediately flattened on the top and bottom to a twinkling, smiling eye!

He went from empty eyes to smiling eyes all in a flash.  It was as if to say that this time, this interaction, this moment, it’s OK, and maybe most importantly, safe.

I don’t know a thing in the world about this man, but I believe he genuinely enjoys his job.

On the other hand, regardless of his smiling expression, I get the distinct feeling that in his lifetime, his eyes have been round far more often than smiling.

I suspect that over the years there’s been a lot of long, dry, hard miles in his heart and that when his eyes are round, his tear ducts get a regular work out.

With each new person he comes across, he’ll never, ever know for sure just what reaction he may get…this time.

What do you do? What can you do, if anything, about that? I don’t know, but I’m thinking I may need more coffee creamer and apples in the next few days.


5 thoughts on “Smiling Eyes”

  1. This is both beautiful and heartbreaking Jeff. I’ve seen those wary, hurting eyes all too often. One of the most important things we can do for another person is to let them know that we see them, and that they matter. Thanks for sharing this!

    Liked by 3 people

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