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Who stole your smile?
Amber Albee Swenson
by Amber Albee Swenson
May 22, 2023

Sometimes I feed a resident in the nursing home where I work. With regret, I admit it isn’t a job I look forward to. One meal takes a good hour, and each bite is painstaking to watch. One bite might take a minute or two from entering the mouth to going down the throat.

A certain event in this man’s life many years ago left him unable to do anything except swallow (after great effort) one little bite of pureed food at a time, blink, and smile.

I talk to pass the time while feeding him. And sometimes when I talk, this man smiles so much it’s impossible for him to eat.

The man whose crippled body lays in angles foreign to most of us, who has not spoken a word in multiple decades, whose emaciated body struggles with every bite . . . smiles at the woman who quite honestly grumbled a bit in her spirit because she had to feed him.

Father, forgive me.

The 60-90 minutes we spend trying to get calories in his body are no doubt the best part of his day. It’s a time when he gets human interaction and cheerful conversation to break up the other 20 odd hours of lying in bed in silence.

If I could pull myself out of self-absorption for a fraction of a minute, I might realize that and look with eager anticipation on the time I get to spend with a man who enjoys my commentary on life.


My daughter’s best friend came to America from India four years ago. Twice in the last week my daughter and I have been in the same place as this girl and her mom. The mom doesn’t drive, so they rely on buses or Ubers to get where they need to go. On one occasion, we said goodbye to them. Twenty minutes later when we left, they were still waiting for their driver. I offered them a ride, which they refused.

My daughter told me that waiting for safe transportation is not a hardship. For them it is a way of life, and they are satisfied.

When I want to go somewhere, I get in my car. I have money for gas. I grumble when traffic is slow or when potholes make me maneuver ever so slightly to the right or left.

How easily I criticize and complain about insignificant details!

Christians have reason to be the most joyous people on the planet. We know the Creator of the universe. He knows us by name and pays attention to the details of our lives. He opens the gates of heaven, not only for us to live there eternally, but now, while we are still on earth, we have access to him through prayer.

So why do we Americans who have so much so seldom smile? Why are we so quick to criticize and complain? God is on our side, and he has given us so much. He entrusts his kingdom to us. And honestly, if we lived like we knew the King and the extent of the King’s majesty and power, it would seem hard to imagine that others wouldn’t want in.

As I prepare for a busy summer, a summer that is only busy because of the blessings God has showered on me, I am making joy my goal.

If that man I feed can smile, so can I. If he makes the most of a seemingly impossible situation, I can get through my days grumble-free.

If that mom and daughter happily wait for a ride home, I can happily wait for my Father in heaven to show me the answers to the many prayers I pray. He doesn’t delay to annoy me and certainly not to cause me pain, so I can trust he is good and his timing is impeccable.

If you sometimes struggle to see the good in life as I do, let’s make a point to see the good things God is doing in our lives. Let’s not take the simple things for granted. Rather, let’s embrace each day as the gift it is and praise the Lord for it.