Smiling at strangers

He gingerly makes his way slowly down the footpath on two crutches. He is on his way to the mall, the center that is the hub of my part of town, where we shop and socialize.

He looks to be around 70, and seems spry in spite of the slow two-crutched walk. He is tall and skinny.

He walks to the mall every day around 5 pm. I walk home from it, often at that time, and so I pass him. Sometimes just as I come out of the mall, sometimes as I near my apartment. We walk the same path, so we meet.

I don’t know him, but I’ve noticed that he’s grown a mustache over the summer. I’ve noticed that we keep meeting, just the two of us. And because I think he looks nice, and he obviously lives in my neighborhood, and we keep meeting like this, I feel it is time we start saying hello as we pass.

I try a careful smile, one Leonardo da Vinci could paint, well aware that women should not be smiling at male strangers. His blue eyes meet mine, but he doesn’t smile back. Rather, he looks startled. My little smile quickly fades.

Still, I do this again every time I meet him. His startled look is getting less startled each time.

Today it is raining and to my relief, he has a hooded jacket on. The last time I saw him, on Friday, he was not covered up in the rain.

I do my Mona Lisa impersonation. He responds with one of his own today. My smile then becomes a proper wide one.

I hope he liked it.

By Keera Ann Fox

I am a bi-lingual American who has lived most of my life in Norway.
Jeg er en tospråklig amerikaner som har bodd mesteparten av mitt liv i Norge.

7 replies on “Smiling at strangers”

Keera – I'm sure that your smile lit him up inside even if he didn't show it. In my bookstore I had a regular customer who was in 3-4 times a week. He not only didn't smile, he didn't make eye contact and rarely even spoke. I decided, that if I was going to see him so often, I wouldn't take offense at his non-actions, but I would be myself. I started with just a few extra words and always smiled. It took months before he even acknowledged me, but after a year or so he even carried on a short conversation on occasion. We entered each other's worlds.


Glad I made you smile, Jono!Ellen, I think that's a part of it: Being ourselves and being friendly, even if it feels uninvited. I love your attitude and story!After a vacation in France, where everyone greets you (like in an elevator), I discovered how nice it is to be seen. I'm trying to pass that on, even though I tend to be one of those \”don't talk to me\” types. A smile can't hurt.


Keera – So many of my jobs have involved working with the public as part of my job description. In order to maintain a good attitude the best thing to do is be positive, smile, be human, look people in the eyes, and most of all listen. Almost everyone responds in kind – people want to get along and I think that through our interactions with others we pass a little life-force on into the world.A vacation in France? Perfection!Ellen


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