I stand waiting near the bathroom. It’s not the bathroom I’m waiting for, I don’t even think they’re occupied. I’m waiting for Nick. Standing near the bathroom doesn’t make it look like I’m waiting for Nick. If people knew, they might force me to talk with him, and honestly…I wouldn’t know what to say.
“What are you doing?” His voice breaks the stream of thoughts in my head without pardon. Every well-crafted response I’ve made up in case someone comes up and starts to talk to me or, God forbid, Nick comes this way.
“I’m, eh, I’m waiting.” I stammer.
“No, what are you doing right now,” he asks. His name is Flavio. I met him before the service and said I thought his name was amazing. That was the first time I saw his smile. The smile that could heal a broken heart, or at least let you forget about it for a second.
“Well, nothing,” I say, and I see that larger than life smile for the second time.
“Do you want to come to have a sandwich?” he laughs, all teeth, no reservation. Before I have a chance to answer he’s off and I’m following him through the hallways of a building I’ve never been in, going through doors that I’m pretty sure I’m not meant to go through.
Flavio is in the live band. He doesn’t have to tell me that, I saw it during service. What he tells me, while I eat my promised sandwich, is that he’s from Brazil. What he tells me is how he ended up in Estonia.
In the coming few days I ask Flavio to repeat this story to a number of people we meet because I like it so much. And I’m not talking to thin air, I mean, I’m not crazy. Flavio is there. And we’re there with him because he invited us. After the sandwiches and a great conversation, Flavio asks us to come with some friend to eat at Chi, the restaurant two doors over from church. That’s where he invites us to stay at his house. We can stay on the floor of the living room with our own air mattresses, or we can sleep in his flatmate’s bed if we’re lucky and he’s away. We’re lucky. So we spent the next couple of days in Flavio’s wonderful presence.
The story I ask him to repeat is this:
Living in Brazil, Flavio one day got this feeling—he calls it God’s direction, you can call it a hunch if you want—that it wasn’t for him anymore. That this was not where the road was taking him. Instead, the road was taking him to Estonia. A country he’d never heard of or had never been to in his life. But he could get a job there, so he went. Two months later, no more job. Flavio didn’t know why and it didn’t much matter. All he knew was that he needed to find something. Then it found him.
You see, Flavio can sing, and he has that smile we talked about. Put those two together and you’ve got one heck of a showman. So that’s what he ended up doing, singing in a band, in a bar in Tallinn. And he was good at it. That’s not only what he thought of himself, but it was what the crowd showed him. They loved him, and they loved that smile. So time after time, Flavio performs and every time the crowd goes wild and of course, the ladies notice. They notice that kind of a thing. They notice that smile. So they throw themselves at him, in all senses but the literal.
“In the end, it just got too hard to say no.” He says. So Flavio quit. He couldn’t handle the temptation and left the job before the temptation got the better of him.
So now Flavio’s a customer service agent at a cryptocurrency casino. And he loves it. Not because it’s the greatest job on earth, or because he’s all too pleased to work in a casino, but because it means Flavio can learn how to serve. That’s what he wants. It’s his next goal in life, to be able to serve the need of others. Not putting his own needs front and center.
And this is the guy we got to spend time with. Not only did we laugh with him (and we did that a lot), but we learned from him. From this guy, bigger than two Estonians put together not in size, but in his outlook on life. Being around him just makes you happy. And though your smile will never be as big as Flavio’s, being near his energy sure as anything makes you try.