What’s so special about a smile?

This may be my first blog where the picture doesn’t exactly match my story. Well, that’s because it felt a little too weird even to me to ask a stranger if I could get a picture of him smiling as he walked down the sidewalk. Don’t think for a minute that I didn’t spend the afternoon kicking myself for not being brave enough to do it, though. Let me explain.

Monday, I left the Florida Keys thinking about what I might write about next. Tuesday, I met a few friendly people at the Everglades National Park sign and wondered if I could make a story out of my encounter with Leslie from California and Randy and Randall from Indiana. They became a Facebook post.

Tuesday night I arrived at my friend Zuzana’s in West Palm Beach, and she introduced me to four French Canadian friends she calls “the Canarians.” She also introduced me to her friends Ivan and Marta and her friend and realtor, Yadi, and her husband, Eric. All great people, but still no story came to mind.

In Zuzana’s neighborhood pool on Friday, I met Paula, who moved to West Palm Beach four years ago from Michigan so she could scuba dive. She dove five times, had an accident, and hasn’t been able to dive since. Maybe I could tell you her story . . . or Zuzana’s. I could tell you how we met in the Kroger parking lot in Milford, Ohio when I was visiting my friend Amy on my first motor home trip in 2018. However, Z’s story would take a decade and a case of Kleenex to write, so for now, let’s leave that one alone.

Now, I’m in the city of Rockledge in Brevard County, Florida, slowly making my way back home to Georgia. I’m parked at a long-term campground near my friend Esther, whom I met on my first trip to Florida in 2019 and visited again in 2020. From here, I plan to meet up with Brad and Maria in Daytona, also friends from my 2019 and 2020 trips to the sunshine state. Next, I will catch up with Debbie, a fellow physical education teacher from Calhoun, Georgia, who has recently retired and moved to Florida. As great as all these people are, and as hard as I have been thinking about making any or all of them into a blog, no eureka moment for a blog post has come . . .

until this morning, when I least expected it. I was riding along the sidewalk that seems to line every street in this area and I came upon the nicest little city park (see photo). After circling the park and riding through a neighborhood that made me think of my sister Lynn’s neighborhood in Indiana, I turned around to head back to my campsite. As I approached an intersection, I slowed for a man on a bike, crossed the street and called to another guy who was just stepping onto the sidewalk. When I called out “on your right” the tall, thin guy with an air pod in his ear turned, stepped back, and gave me the biggest, kindest, toothy smile I had ever seen on a bike trail.

It was at that moment I thought I needed to tell you about him and what that smile did for me. I rode another mile or so, just thinking about his reaction when I startled him. He just smiled. That’s all he did, and yet I couldn’t stop thinking about how much a smile means. When I turned around to ride back, I hoped he would still be walking down the path. He was. I stopped and told him how much that smile meant to me. It told me a lot about him as a person. His smile made me like him, made me think highly of him. He thanked me and we both moved on. We didn’t even exchange names, and here I am writing about him at midnight merely because he smiled at a girl who whizzed by him on the sidewalk somewhere in Brevard County.

If you are wondering if a smile makes a difference, wonder no more. Smiles are free to give away and they don’t take any more energy than a frown. So, if given a choice, I hope you will choose today to give a smile not just to the ones you love, but to everyone who crosses your path. Because you never know what a smile can do. And if you give enough of them away, it may just lift your own spirits too. To the guy in Brevard County who gave me a smile when you could have just as easily given me the finger, I say this blog is for you. Please keep smiling. So, what’s so special about a smile? A smile can change the world, or at least our little corner of it.