What’s Wrong with Being Happy?

23 04 2017

It was a number of years ago when my Lady and I traveled down to Hollywood Florida, a Rock _nquaint little beach community (at least it was then before the casinos came in) between Fort Lauderdale and Miami. We had come there for a week-long conference at a college we were interested in attending, plus it was a cheap vacation that came with room and board in the Sunshine State. The school located right on the beach was impressive and the speakers were all the good; but the biggest impression I left there with was that of the happiest man I would ever meet, the janitor.

Each mealtime all the other attendees would be herded with into a large cafeteria, and there at the doorway entrance would be Stan. “Hello! Hi! How are ya! Good to see you!” He would reach out to shake as many hands as he could and the ones he couldn’t he would point at them, maybe make a funny face or use a different voice, just to let them know he saw them. Cathy and I immediately fell in love with this whimsical character and looked forward to his happy greetings each day. Nearly everyone felt the same way we did, but there were a few that would have to make snide remarks of his overly pleasant ways and constant smile. One young man (who I hope has matured since then) remarked “What’s wrong with you, did you escape from the nuthouse or something? Why are you always happy?!!” Stan paused for just a second, but the smile never left his face. They he asked “Is it wrong to be happy? Should it be looked at as a disease?” The young man didn’t answer, shaking his head he continued into the cafeteria. Knowing my Lady who was close when this conversation came down wasn’t going to leave it like that; soon as she reached him she let him know how much we loved seeing him and hearing his greetings each mealtime. Others followed in suit and I could tell Stan appreciated it as he continued his continued calling, “Hello, Good to see you!”

I made friends with a senior there at the school and asked him if he knew anything about Stan the Janitor. “A lot!” he remarked. “Matter of fact he’s going to give his testimony in my dorm room tonight to about half a dozen guys I’ve invited to hear his story; we’d love to have you join us.” Since dorms were separated male and female Cathy couldn’t come, but I accepted my friend’s invitation; Stan’s constant smile and sunny disposition made me want to know more about him.

The dorm room was small with some sitting on the bed and the rest of us on the floor while Stan sat in straight back chairs, and he began. Born in Brooklyn in the 1910s he came into the world with a sever birth defect to his mouth, right arm and right legs. His parents were quick to reject him and thus he was sent to an orphanage; he would spend all of his youthful days there. As other children with more perfect bodies would be adopted Stan with his deformed body would constantly be looked over, he would spend all of his growing up years a ward of the state. During this time Stan had many surgeries to correct the problems most of which you wouldn’t notice today unless he pointed them out. When his time ended at the orphanages he was placed in a boarding house and sent to a trade school where he learned to work on boilers, furnaces and anything to do with heating. He admits merging into the world all alone didn’t leave him with the best attitude. He explains further that he would be hateful with people and preferred just to be left alone. None of this changed until he was sent to work to be an apprentice to an old journeyman in the trade who was exceptionally nice to him. If Stan was late, there was no lecture; if he made a mistake, only understanding and explanation on how to do it right next time. Many would be the invitations by the old man for Stan to come home to have dinner with he and his wife; each time he would refuse. Finally giving in, Stan accepted and showed up at the apartment of the old man where he was met by the wife who greeted him like a long lost relative she was so happy to see again. For the next four hours he laughed, smiled and felt more at ease than ever before in his life; for the first time Stan was experiencing what it felt like to be cared for.

For several years Stan was a regular visitor to their home; he would be there on holidays and they treated him like family. He’d go with the old man to a street mission and to the orphanage where Stan was raised and volunteer to fix things in need of repair. Once a month they would go to a church where the couple attended to do work. Always Stan was invited to attend with them on Sunday but refused.  He had come a long way in his negative attitude but still had a hard time believing a loving God would put him through all he experienced as a child. One day the old man shared with him something he never told him before. They once had a daughter they loved dearly but tragically died when she was hit by a car at the age of 10. “How could you not be angry with God when that happened?!!” Stan questioned. With a soft smile and a look in his eyes like he was seeing her once again he slowly answered, “I was for a while, but as time went on it was like God saying to me, go and love others like you did her, and like I do you. You’ll see her again and when you do I’ll be there too.”

“I believe that the happiest of all Christians and the truest of Christians are those who never dare to doubt God, but take His Word simply as it stands, and believe it, and ask no questions, just feeling assured that if God has said it, it will be so.” Charles Spurgeon

It was then Stan realized the old man didn’t practice a religion; he lived a faith that no matter what happened God was still with him to get through it and always looked upon him with love and a smile.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 – “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

Stan concluded his talk to us that night with, “If this man could love and be happy after what he went through, then I knew he had something real that I wanted like I never wanted anything else in the world. I set myself to the task that no matter what happened I would look on others the same way, the way Jesus did for each you.” Reaching in his shirt pocket he pulled out a small piece of well-worn cardboard; “When the old man went to be with the Lord he left me all his tools. In the top drawer of the tool chest I found this note he had written, ‘Never stop caring for others the way God cares for you.’”

That’s what brought him through life and when he retired to Florida he knew God wanted him to be at the school to continue sharing that love, that happiness, that smile. Of all the great speakers I heard that week at the conference, this precious “Traveler of the Rock Road,” Stan and his message to few young men in a small dorm room one late evening stays with me. I like that.

I usually have some last thoughts to share with you good folks, but I think I’ll leave it here. Perhaps after reading this you may be encouraged to go out and spread a little of God’s love to others — Stan style.

See ya next time.


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