“I love remembering how he walked into a room, smiled, and all was OK with the world.”
Margaret Jackson’s son, Richard (RJ to his friends), had an infectious smile and positive outlook that touched just about everyone he encountered.
As a young man, when he was asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” he would respond with one grand smile and one simple word; “HAPPY.” This guy clearly understood what was important in life.
On his high school basketball team, no matter what was happening in the game, Richard enjoyed himself, running up and down the court with a big grin on his face. During one game his coach, frustrated (but also amused) by his lack of seriousness blurted out, “There’s no smiling in basketball!”
Richard was only twenty when he was hit and killed by a reckless driver. In the midst of her unfathomable pain, Margaret quickly realized she had two options: She could fall into depression, wallow in self-pity and spend a lifetime anguishing over the unfairness of such a tragedy. Or she could mourn, but at the same time celebrate Richard and the joy he brought to the people around him.
Margaret chose option two. Inspired by Richard’s contagious smile, RJ Smiles was born with the mission of creating smiles and rebuilding dreams in the lives of those who have experienced a major loss. When Richard smiled negatives were turned into positives. Margaret was determined to continue this legacy.
In addition to being the founder of RJ Smiles, Margaret is an educator and speaker. She works with women’s groups focusing on managing grief, empowerment, conquering life’s challenges and rediscovering dreams. Margaret recently collaborated on the book, Unsinkable Soul, Knocked down but not Out.
Margaret joined Project Grace in Tanzania in 2012. “My biggest takeaway from our trip has been the amazing friends that I made. Our bonds started from pain, but have grown to beautiful friendships. While our grief journeys have taken us all in different directions, I feel that I am a bit stronger because of the support that I know is there from this new group of friends.”
As for her inspiration, along with Richard Margaret is held up by the words of Maya Angelou:
“I can be changed by what happens to me, but I refuse to be reduced by it.”