Take up your Cross with a Smile

Last week Friday I was positive about the direction this post would take, based on today’s readings. I love the Deuteronomy reading when Moses, almost chiding the Israelites about the wonders they had seen; the wonders God performed for them to bring them out of Egypt and to freedom. The Israelites did not always appreciate it.

And then we have today’s Gospel about taking up your cross and following Christ. We are told that this is the way to gain eternal life in the Kingdom, regardless of what we gain here on earth.

Yup! I really thought I had this down. Until this past Saturday, when I attended the funeral of my friend and neighbor, Bob. Bob and his wife Ann live next to me in my condo complex (so close that we cannot open our condo doors at the same time!). I’d call over there, and Bob would ask if I was calling “long-distance”, or if I was visiting, he’d ask if I needed a ride home. It always made me smile. I’ve known them for years, but there is always more to learn about someone’s story.

My original instincts for today was to take the route through the Gospel that, while carrying our own crosses in life, big or small, we would ease our own burdens by somehow easing the burdens of another. And, quite frankly, that is exactly what Bob did all his life. He made people smile. And that made people happy. And that would if only for a few short moments, make life a bit more bearable for some.

Now, I’m not a social media person. I don’t have a Facebook page. Bob had one. I now feel a bit cheated that I was not connected to him in this way, also. Because all I heard at the funeral was about how Bob’s page made people smile. Often he would tell me that he was going to “check on his peeps.”  We were all Bob’s Peeps. He posted his corny Dad Jokes, as he called them; every day he would in some way wish everyone a good whatever day it was. He loved Wednesdays, Hump Day. His Facebook page was called “If You Grew Up in Grand Rapids/Kent County You Remember” – and it had 23,000 followers. Yes, 23,000! People he would never meet or get to know. But they knew Bob.

He wore smiley face suspenders and considered the smiley face his family crest! Now come-on, you’ve just got to smile at that!

Bob was 72 when he died last week. His last few years were hard ones because of medical issues and complications thereof. But he always tried to put on a happy face when with others. I don’t recall him ever really complaining about his health, but to occasionally mention that walking was getting harder. According to Ann, he was even cracking jokes to the doctors when he was having toes amputated due to diabetes. I expect the smile put on the faces of the doctors also made their job easier.

The point of all of this is that we can, no matter what cross life has given us to bear, make the cross borne by others easier to bear. It often doesn’t take much: a smile, a joke, a warm handshake, or a hug.

God Bless.

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Jeanne Penoyar, an Accounts Manager at Diocesan, is a Lector at St. Anthony of Padua parish in Grand Rapids, MI. Jeanne has worked in parish ministry as an RCIA director, in Liturgy, and as a Cantor. Working word puzzles and reading fill her spare time. Jeanne can be reached at jpenoyar@diocesan.com.