In the early 1960’s I received a wonderful simple gift. I remember opening up a small bag with plastic colored body parts. Hands, feet, a variety of noses, mouth expressions, and glasses among other things, were what I laid out on the kitchen counter as my mother handed me a large potato. It was at that moment, as a young child, I learned the joy of creating different personalities and expressions by sticking the plastic body parts into a potato. While I suppose some people still use potatoes, often Mr. Potato Head toys today are sold with plastic bodies with slots to insert the variety of parts.

If you drop by my office, I have a Mr. Potato Head on one of my bookshelves. It reminds me of joyful years as a young boy and the simplicity of that time. It prompts me to remember the importance of humor and laughter and even silliness at any age. But Mr. Potato Head also helps me to remember something important about myself and every person I encounter. That is, what we see on the outside of a person may or may not reflect what is going on within.

Many of us have smiled when we were sad or laughed even when we did not feel like doing so on the inside. While our facial and body expressions can authentically reflect what’s happening internally, we are wise never to assume that this is always the case. Sometimes those who are hurting the most on the inside force smiles on their faces like a child putting a plastic part on a potato.

I invite you this day to check in with yourself. Does what people see on the outside reflect what is happening within you? Are you allowing people with whom you trust to see the real you despite what people may see? Conversely, might there be someone near you who is truly not ok, despite the face they put on? Is there someone nearby you may be called to ask, “How are you? No really. Honestly. How are you?”

As Jesus followers, God invites each of us, I believe, to remember the Mr. Potato Head Principle. What we see on the outside, may not at all be what is happening on the inside. Take the time to check in with people around you, even those who seem to have nothing but a wide eyed smile on their face.