"A Smile is Free"

October 11, 2012
By AmericanExpat BRONZE, Bangkok, Maryland
AmericanExpat BRONZE, Bangkok, Maryland
3 articles 1 photo 0 comments

When volunteering at a soup kitchen, you see hundreds of faces – many which could break your heart. Some people look at the floor, embarrassed, as you hand them dinner, some carry everything they own on their backs, some are angry at everything – barking at you, and some with crutches or broken noses. There are always some that thank you over and over again and are just so grateful that you’re there, that you just want to go up and hug.
At the soup kitchen near the train station here in Rome, there are women that say ‘grazie mille’, or thanks a million, many times to show their appreciation and men that sing to you and tell you that you are as beautiful as a peach. Some people ask your name or nationality and practice speaking English with the American volunteers. There are plenty of really interesting people that go there, many unexpected.
This past Wednesday night, a man said something really incredible to me.
I was refilling pitchers of water, walking up and down the isles of the large cafeteria when a man gestured me over. He must of have been in his late twenties and had the biggest smile on his face. He first asked me who my American friend was that was giving out the crackers. I told him her name and he asked me why she never smiled.
“She’s very beautiful”, he said in perfect English, “but she never smiles.”
He did a hilarious mockery of her face and even commented that she looked like a thief!
He then said, “She should smile more. A smile is free, it does not cost anything.”
This comment caught me by total surprise. It was so uplifting and inspiring to know that someone in the desperate situation he was in, still has the joy and happiness in his life to recognize the importance of a smile.
I ended up sitting down and talking in English, French and attempted Italian with him for nearly ten minutes. His smile radiated the entire time.
I don’t even know his name, but I know there aren’t many people out there quite like him. It was a special encounter.

The author's comments:
I've been volunteering at a soup kitchen with my school, and a homeless man said something truly inspirational to me last time I was there. I'd love to spread his joy and wisdom with readers of Teen Ink. :)

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