by Brian McCaster (2014 Byron Fellow)

Once upon a time, there was a man with a smile. Every day the man smiled at the world, and every day it smiled back with love and blessings abundant. Until one day, the man’s smile left his face and touched his heart. And, then it touched his hands. Because of that, the man began to give the world more than just a friendly nod and an occasional good deed. He listened with new ears, he spoke with new lips, and he saw with new eyes. He heard untold fears and quiet loves and spoke of a world unseen as he saw a future where fleeting smiles gave way to passions pursued, souls connected, and wounds healed and prevented. Until finally, the man’s visions were shared by others. Their sympathetic smiles began to spread from their hearts to their hands to their ears, lips, and eyes. They sought out others, then those disciples sought others still until the world burst with new smiles that were fearless, restless, and reminded everyone to relentlessly pursue a future of peace, unknown to them yet perfectly clear.

Several weeks have passed since Byron, and this man is still smiling! At times I catch myself checking to see if my “being”, or “smile,” is authentic. Are my face and actions just going through the motions, or am I smiling inside and out? I have found that my new commission to change hearts, connect souls, and make disciples requires a power which I cannot obtain on my own. A sense of hopelessness can arise quickly outside of our time together, co-creating and supporting one another at Byron. The return to our traditional world reminds us just how impenetrable certain powerfully persuasive cultures may seem.

Just last night, I attended a small group made up of four other men. Our discussion opened with each of us sharing a favorite verse from the Bible. My verse was John 13:35: “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” I love this passage because of the responsibility it places on the shoulders of the listeners. “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another (verse 34).”

Our goal is nbrian mccasterot to suggest co-dependence or passing the buck of accountability, but rather to acknowledge and embrace the fact that our wells may at times run dry. Yet, paradoxically, our wells may be filled through the act of filling other’s such that anyone’s dry well is our opportunity to enliven each other, together. We social creatures are meant to find our strength and our comfort in one another – we are interdependent. In the same way that an ambulance must stop to refuel, it is neither weak nor wrong to ensure that one’s personal needs are voiced. In so doing, we create an opportunity for both ourselves and others to refuel, together.

I am called to inspire others. I also need inspiration and purpose. That inspiration or purpose is found beyond myself, bound up in relationship, dialogue, and possibility with others.  By allowing those that I help to pour back into me, I gain the energy and wisdom necessary to pour myself out yet again and when I pour myself into others, I can do so in a way that enlivens me.

In the end, the smiling man of my vision has begun to find others to hold his heart and hands steady during this journey. He has found a community that has enhanced his voice, refined his hearing, and made clearer his vision of a world where people not only have a passion for positive change but where people are courageously and powerfully connecting and fully expressing their love for one another – a world where our smiles are contagious, inside and out.