A few years ago, one of my colleagues overheard two lawyers talking at the Courthouse. One lawyer asked the other, “Who is that lawyer in the wheelchair?” The other lawyer replied, “Why, that is Jack Emmott. He is the smile on four wheels.”
Learning of this exchange, I felt I had received the highest form of compliment.
I had polio at age six and have wondered why I smile so much. You see in the photograph posted with this prayer me at age seven and a half smiling on four wheels. The fact that I was wearing an uncomfortable Milwaukee back brace for scoliosis and braces on each of my paralyzed hands did not eclipse my ability to smile.
Maybe my smile is merely a gift of God’s grace. Perhaps it is because I have been deeply loved every day by two extraordinary women. First, my mother. Then, my wife, Dorothy. Maybe it was the faith I received from my parents that I was a special child of God.
Sure, there were times I felt different and not special compared to my peers. In the end I knew that they were just like me. We were all children of God. Different but nevertheless special, worthy, and deserving of happiness.
Maybe my smile was attributable to my teachers from first grade through high school at Bane Elementary, Post Elementary, Dean Junior High, and Cy-Fair High School. My teachers went out of their way to make room in their hearts for me in their classrooms.
In first grade it was Lillie Holbrook. She made me and all her students feel like Einstein. Feeling special and smart as a young child provided me with the confidence, courage and strength needed for the remainder of my life. Especially when I made mistakes. When my best was not good enough. When I felt far less than special.
Every day, Grace Berry, my English and Spanish teacher in the ninth grade, fondly called me Jackie Boy. She went out of her way to find positive things to say. One day I wore a long-sleeved yellow shirt to class. Upon rolling into the classroom, Mrs. Berry said, “Jackie Boy, I really like that shirt. Do you know that yellow is an intelligent color?” A smile was pasted on my face the rest of the day.
The cumulative effect of love received, praise given, acts of kindness extended, and hope from God enabled me to smile. I could freely open up and share with others the happiness inside me. Happiness which flowed from God’s grace to me as His special child.
Considering that I will die one day, I have given thought about what words would be most appropriate to be engraved on my headstone. I have accomplished many achievements in the legal profession, in my service to the community, and in my church, as a friend, husband, father, and grandfather. Yet the most suitable epitaph might be:
Here Lies the Body of Jack Emmott
The Smile on Four Wheels
God has spoken in Scripture as to smiling.
“Many people say, ‘Who will show us better times?’ Let your face smile on us, LORD.”
“A cheerful look brings joy to the heart; good news makes for good health.”
Let us pray.
Dear God, please help me to smile and smile more often. In smiling I cause others to smile. Smiles are contagious, healing, and encouraging to others.
God, in smiling and reflecting my happiness on others may I be mindful that I am serving You. For these things reflect the good news that You are always faithful and uplifting. On my face I show others my trust in You that Your love makes all things work together for good.
God, I know one day I will see Your Face in Heaven. I will see You smiling at me forever. Amen
If you think Jack’s prayer helps you or will help someone you know, please forward it to them. Jack may never make millions selling books or writing prayers, but spreading God’s good news to others is reward enough for him.
Ann Boland, Jack’s Publicist