“A Reason to Smile,” Dec. 13, 2022

I’m taking off this week. The following column is from 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 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 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 into a look of fear or worry or furious anger. But it never left my face for long. It always came back, even on occasion 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 then, she blew me a kiss. That put a lasting 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 dinner.

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. Maybe they’ll even blow you a kiss and make your headache go away.


  1. Nothing brings a smile to my face than a baby. I can’t resist trying to get them to smile back. In this day & age it is a shame that so many little ones are harmed. We as mothers never quit being concerned about our kids. God bless you & yours during this season. Enjoy your times together.

  2. Kate Sciacca says

    Yes, smiles are essential to sanity and social sanctity. Such a tragedy that little children didn’t see them for over a year. Little did you know… writing that column in 2019. Hope all is well and you’re enjoying some time off 🙂

  3. Debra Droste says

    Thank you for your stories. My sweet mil had always enjoyed reading them in her newspaper. Then that went by the wayside. I found you on Facebook and began printing them out for her. She loved reading them. She is 90 and has dementia now, so doesn’t understand what she reads anymore. But, a smile does brighten her countenance. Thank you for ministering to her the years. Blessings on you. Debra

  4. Sarah Christiopher says

    Love it, Sharon!! You always know how to make the world seem a better place. God bless you!
    Love to you and your family and a blessed Christmas!
    PS – lunch at the marina with our friend Joe recently.

  5. 💚🎄💚🎄💚

  6. Mary Kinsey says

    Sharon, your heart shows in everything you write. What a wonderful way to write! I forwarded your “Second Best Story” to a lot of people I love.
    All your columns are forwardable including this one!!! May God bless you and your husband and all of your family and add much joy to your life.
    With loving wishes for Christmas and the coming year.

  7. I love all your columns and the repeats too❤️❤️

  8. Katie Musgrave says

    Love your article which has left me smiling. Good reminder to smile rather than frown. Consider yourself being smiled at by me. ❤️ 😍 💖

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