Not long ago, I was a crackhead. A full-blown $300 a day man, I lived a life filled with darkness and decay.
Now, my life is somewhat different for me. A wife that loves me (in spite of my dark past), a home, and a promise that I can’t say I really deserve.
You see, I did a lot of things for which I am truly ashamed. Things that I used to believe had earned me a place in the darkest of hereafters, that would match the way I walked while breath was in this body.
The promise is much, much better.
I found it deep inside of me, at the end of a long, dark highway. I had wandered away from the land where everyone knew me as “Ron, the Crackhead” to a land where no one knew me at all. There, I discovered a few things.
First, that all I really wanted was to be happy again. The drugs had long since stolen my ability to smile, and I couldn’t find it no matter where I looked.
I did find my smile again, and in the most unusual of places: on the face of a stranger.
I can still see her face, even eleven years (practically to the day) after the fact. She was nobody special, in a nowhere town in northern Florida, just standing outside a convenience store. Simply standing, eyes closed and face turned upwards, smiling into the Sun.
I never said a word to this woman. In fact, I didn’t even get out of my van. I just sat there, and felt this beautiful smile flow from her spirit into mine, awakening a sleeping giant inside of me.
That smile has never left me. I’ve traveled quite a few thousand miles since then, too, always sharing her smile.
Now, I’m a whole lot older and a little bit wiser that I was back then. The smiles I share, well, once in a while it’s one of mine, but mostly, I just reach into my heart and share what has become mine only by the nature of the gift. Once given it is never lost. Once shared, it is always remembered. Once remembered, it lives forever.
When I had nothing, she gave, though she never knew.
And that’s okay. If she’s out there today, maybe she’ll remember the feel of the Sun on her face and the smile she thought was just hers and know that it became something more over time.
It became me.
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