Written by Bradley Noble

I look up and look left. I look right, and then I look up again. I look any way I can to avoid blinking. I must keep myself together!

Why is this so hard for me today?

Then, I see her picture in front of me, her joyful expression across the entirety of the screen. Suddenly, all of that composure I had worked to keep intact crumbled within seconds. I am officially out of my element. My heart starts to beat a little quicker. I cannot figure out what exactly to do with my hands as they begin to tremble, and I do not know where to look not to feel so exposed.

I am uncomfortable.

See, on any given day, I believe in the power of a smile. I believe in the overwhelming positivity it holds and the infectious energy it can transmit to those lucky enough to be in its presence. I believe in its power to heal to create a sense of warmth. But, right now, I am finding it extremely hard to smile, to be positive.

I smile because the world can be an extremely heavy place when you see young Black girls and boys shot and killed in our communities or incarcerated at such disproportionate rates on TV. It is unfair, disheartening, but I smile because I will not allow that to get me. I smile at people whom I know and even those whom I do not. And, if I am so lucky, and if the conditions are right,

I just might receive a smile in return.

Today however, in this moment, my smile is not coming as frequent as normal. I try again, and again, and again, and nothing changes in the image staring back at me. The smile is trying to force its way between the thick tears currently rolling uncontrollably down both of my cheeks. In my ears, the pastor’s sermon softens and the echoes of my family’s words reverberate through my head, reminding me to stop. As a young black man, I have been conditioned to not show weakness, to show strength even when it stings to hold back tears that are ready to flow. But, I am uncomfortable, and I am hurting.

My body is shakes, and my breathes exit without,

not steady

nor calm.

I ask,

Please, Lord, take this pain from me.

I am searching for that one thought that will bring me back, that will set my body at peace again. I want nothing more than to drown my thoughts out with loud music and the warmth of the sun. But, I am continuing to hit a wall, and I am exposed. There is nowhere to hide the tears falling down my face from the people around me in this room.

My friend reaches out and grabs my hand, gently. A couple of my tears fall onto the backside of her hand. I look up to apologize, but when I look up at my friend’s wet, swollen face, I am greeted

with a close-mouthed smile. Something washed over me, and I returned it. But, in that moment of understanding and of solidarity, and in that smile, I saw the process of healing.

So, I believe in the profound power of a smile, on most days; however, today I will continue to cry.

But, tomorrow, I believe that I will smile again. |