“A Smile Is Good Medicine,” April 23, 2019

It was a quick stop at the market at 5 p.m. — yes, the worst time of day to shop — to pick up a few essentials: Cream for coffee, eggs for breakfast and Advil for my splitting headache.

I’d been rushing all day, running errands, checking things off a lengthy to-do list. I did not want to play Demolition Derby with throngs of other weary shoppers. But I told myself it was my last stop before going home to put my feet up and watch my husband make dinner. Maybe I’d buy some pesto. The man is half Italian. He loves pesto pasta.

So I scored a parking place in a green zone, grabbed a bag from the trunk and found a cart that was left on the curb. Then I gritted my teeth, took a deep breath and dove into the fray.

It wasn’t quite as crowded as I expected. I stopped briefly to rummage through a bucket of sunflowers and picked out the least wilted bunch. I can’t prove it, but something about sunflowers always seems to lower my blood pressure.

Next I grabbed a package of linguini and some pesto at the deli and moved on to the dairy aisle for eggs and cream.

That’s when I saw her. She was sitting in the seat of a shopping cart, padded all around with a blanket. She looked to be maybe 9 months old. Short blond curls. Blue eyes as big as hubcaps. Wearing a white lace dress with tights and shiny black shoes.

I would describe her mother, but I barely saw the young woman. I couldn’t take my eyes off the child. We stared at each other, she with her baby blues and I with my bloodshot browns. Then I did what I always do with children: I gave her my best smile. It looks a bit goofy, but it comes from my heart.

That’s a habit I formed long ago when I became a mother. Maybe I did it as a child, but I remember it best as a mom.

It started with my firstborn, in that unforgettable, life-changing moment when he was laid upon my chest and I watched him turn his tiny face up to find mine. I could not stop smiling at him. I still can’t.

At times, over the years, my smile would fade to a look of fear or worry or furious anger. But it never left my face for long. It always came back, even through tears.

It happened that same way with his sister and brother. Just to look at them lit me up like Christmas. It still does. And now, after all these years, I can’t stop smiling at their children.

But here is what I’ve learned: All children, young and old, need someone to smile at them. Not just their parents and grandparents, but their teachers and coaches, family and friends. And, yes, even strangers at the market in a rush to get home.

The toddler in the cart took her time deciding just what to make of my smile. But finally, she lit up like Christmas.

I wish you could’ve seen her.

I laughed and waved goodbye. And she blew me a kiss.

That put a lingering smile on my face that got a smile in return from every shopper I passed, even from a guy at the check out stand who got a call from his wife telling him not to get fish (it was already bagged) because she wanted to go out to eat.

I was still smiling when I got home and realized I’d forgotten to get Advil. Luckily, I didn’t need it. My headache was gone.

I don’t do everything right. Ask my husband. He’ll tell you. But I smile at children. And old people. And everyone between.

Almost always they smile back. And somehow, in that simple, magical, exchange of human pleasantry, this weary old world becomes a slightly better place.

Want to change the world? Try smiling. At children, young and old. At yourself in the mirror. At people you don’t like and strangers on the street.

Someone will smile back at you. I guarantee it.

If you’re lucky, maybe they’ll even blow you a kiss and make your headache go away.


  1. Dominic Murgido says


    Love your columns, this one made me smile!

  2. Shirley Thacker says

    You always know how to put a smile on a face. . . you have a gift. . . a gift of writing and sharing. . . a gift of story telling about life that we all know and experience. Thank you for being real and for sharing with the rest of the world.

  3. Kate Sciacca says

    I’m reminded of a beautiful quote from Mother Teresa, “Be the living expression of God’s kindness; kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile.”

    So that’s what you do… you are the “living expression of God’s kindness…”

    LOL…. I love sunflowers, but they don’t love me. They look fine and even downright perky in the store – but the minute I put them in a vase at home they droop… I mean, it’s personal!!!! But the ones I picked up at Michael’s last week are still doin’ great! 😜

    Ahhh… penne with pesto, fresh tomatoes and parm…. nothing better 😀

  4. Carolyn Merriman says

    I have definitely noticed that if you smile at people they will almost always smile back, even the grumpiest looking ones. And it makes me feel better in turn!

  5. Patti Peters says

    Whenever I go to the grocery, when people are rushing and pushing in front of me, I stop, smile at them and then let them go ahead…I’m never in that much of a hurry, and it has become a game for me. My biggest smiles are to Veterans. I think if people smiled more and griped less it would help. And Sharon I LOVE your columns!

  6. Mary Edmonds says

    I especially like to smile at check out clerks abd make a little small talk. Having been one in several retail stores, a smile alone will make a difference in a long day. God has blessed the people who live around your world. Thanks for sharing.

  7. Henrietta says

    I do the same thing when I’m in a store and see the little ones. Give them a smile, a little wave and they usually will give you a big smile back. Always brightens my day.
    Love your columns and keeping up with your grandchildren and especially your brother.
    Loved your Pacific Grove stories, my husband and I have spent the last several years there celebrating our anniversary. Just celebrated #54 there and stayed at Borg’s. Love it there, no amenities but a great porch to just sit and enjoy the view and people watch.

  8. Terry Andry says

    Wonder story as always. I did a ‘awww’ at her blowing a kiss. 🙂 🙂 A smile may just save a person from a hard day. 🙂

    • Carolyn Jones says

      I too smile at everyone I meet, and I usually get one back! Read a sign in a counseling office waiting room, where I had taken my youngest daughter for counseling. It said, ” When life hands you a lemon, make lemonade”! That was after my first husband had told me to find another place to live, after 31 years of marriage and six daughter’s, two of whom were still at home, in elementary school. I made my mind up to do that and when I retired from a dental office, our patient’s all said they were going to miss my smile! That was the sweetest thing they could have said to me!!!

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