About ten years ago, on one of the first nights of my EMT/Paramedic clinicals, we had a mental patient in the ER for a few hours. He was a little fidgety man that smiled a lot, muttered under his breath constantly, and made little jokes about being restrained and about sneaking out of the hospital. He was, in many ways, the traditional comedic psych patient as seen on TV, and as I was young and naive (which might be redundant, but there you go there), well, I was completely disarmed by him.
It was sometime after midnight as I was leaving his room, that the doctor that was proctoring me at the hospital stopped me and said quite simply, “Charles, I would not, at any time, turn your back on that man. You don’t know anything about him, and he may be quite dangerous.” And I did what any young, naive fool would do: I said, “Yes sir” and “Thank you” and immediately forgot what he had said.
It was maybe an hour later that he called me over and warned me a second time, and though I cannot remember his exact words, the idea of what he said has stayed with me to this day, and is the core thought that I want to leave you with. He said, in effect, “Charles, I was serious when I warned you before to not turn your back on that man. When you look at him, you think that because he is smiling, he is smiling at the sort of things that you might smile at. But he is not sane, and you have no idea what might make him smile and laugh.”
I still think about those words. Lately, when I am with my wife and children at the mall, it is no hard task for me to remember that we live in a world gone mad. The man that I nod to as he holds the door for me and my family, the man who is wearing the Chicago Bulls sweatshirt and who is smiling at me as we pass, he may very well be smiling at the thought of the pornography that he will watch tonight. The cashier at the fast food place, who may be stealing from his boss or his parents, wears, often enough, a smile on his face as well. The woman who almost runs into me, her arms loaded down with bags and boxes, she may be smiling about the affair that she is having, her face brought alive at the thought of the pleasure that sin provides for but a season.
And the man who is at the mall with his family, the one who holds his wife’s hand tightly and who holds her with his eyes, the one who looks at his children and wonders what they will become, and who prays for them all, the same one who even now is typing this very post: why is he smiling? We live in a world gone mad. A world where every man has deep within him, a darkened heart that is full of wicked things. Most days, we can scarcely afford to forget it.