'If I can spread joy, I will'
Published Thursday, May 16, 2019 5:39PM PDT
Ernest is crying on the sidewalk. Although his dad picks him up and puts him on his shoulders, the 18 month old is not a happy camper.
I ask how he's doing, the boy answers with a silent frown. "Ernest got water up his nose," his dad Ian explains, before joking, "He's got a drinking problem."
What’s proving to be a problem for Ernest, just might by the perfect solution for this reporter, who had been knocking on doors in an unsuccessful attempt to find out the story behind a happy-face flag flying across the street.
"Let's walk over there," I suggest. "And see if it changes his mood." Ian agrees.
But just as we're about to find out how Ernest will react, the flag's owner arrives home.
His name is Earl. He says he has a collection of more than a dozen flags that he flies in rotation.
There are flags to celebrate holidays (Christmas, Thanksgiving, Halloween), flags to appreciate home (Canada, British Columbia), and flags to say 'Ahoy me harties!' (Pirate Jolly Roger).
"It makes people happy," Earl says. "If I can spread joy I will."
Earl says the secret to finding happiness for yourself is sharing it with others. "It makes the world a better place."
It seems like that will be the end of the story, until a man who lives nearby stops me. "That man! He's the guy," Anthony says, referring to to Earl. "He'd give you the shirt off his back!"
When Earl leaves, Anthony says he wants tell me all the things he assumes Earl was too humble to.
He tells me that Earl supported him when the emotional and physical toll of battling cancer became too overwhelming.
"I was a friend of a friend," Anthony says. "He didn't have to help me." Anthony also says Earl rescues stray cats and provides work for people struggling to find it. "That smiley face," Anthony points to the flag. "That's Earl!"
Which brings us back to Ernest, the sad boy. When his dad takes him over to see the flag, his frown remains. But then Ernest's mom does something off-camera that makes her little boy beam with a biggest of smiles.
It seems a smile is just the beginning of both Earl and Ernest's stories; it’s the subsequent work that goes into spreading the smile that makes the ending truly happy.