A couple weeks ago it happened to me. Maybe a month now, I don’t remember for sure. Not even remembering where I was when it happened but out of the blue, a girl passed me and as she did, the most amazing thing occurred. I remember THAT part vividly:

She smiled at me.


She really did.

I’m not talking one of those half-smiles, the kind where you know the person’s wondering if she should be dialing 911 with her free hand while she fishes for Mace with the other. The “hold him at bay” type of smile.

Nor was it at all a Hey-baby-what’s-your-number-come-on-I’m-that-desperate thing. (Not that those happen to me often, but at least I’d recognize it if it happened.)

No, this was just a pure, heartfelt, something’s-going-right-in-my-life-and-I’m-sharing-it smile that glowed from inside.

And I smiled back. I couldn’t resist. And I glowed inside for a couple
of hours…

She went on with her life.

And I went on with mine.

But that smile touched me, stayed with me, maybe even changed me. And it got me thinking, “What if we all just took the time to smile more?”

What if we smiled at strangers passing by.

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking I must be some Peace-and-Love idiot type with my head in the clouds, passing out flowers at airports and stuff like that. Or that I’ve had one too many of the “good” pills.

No, I’m actually pretty grouchy. I’m from Boston, for one, arguably the grouchiest city on the planet. And I’m a novelist who writes brooding, dark love stories with a hefty amount of sexy pages (if you don’t believe me, check out Sunsets of Tulum, here!). Not as grouchy as the run-of-the-mill day in Boston, but still. Dark.

I’m also a travel writer, and I think I’ve seen enough of the world to know there are all kinds of wrongs out there. The individual wrongs that make a good day turn sour all the way to the grand, cosmic things that threaten our planet and seem insurmountable.

But a smile doesn’t cost you anything. And I bet yours is just as beautiful as that girl’s was when she flashed her pearly whites as she walked past.

So if you’re still reading, I want you to try this. Pick a street or a time or a place, and smile at a complete stranger. Look them in the eye. Pick someone who seems distracted or frustrated or upset, someone who needs a little something nice today. They can be young, old, ancient. Male, female, transgender. Any walk of life. The subway. The line at the coffeeshop. The traffic jam on your way into the city.

The only rule is that you have to really look them in the eye, make contact, and then smile long enough for their face to change. No flashing the smile and looking away so quickly you never see what happens next. They have to see you and react, understand. And you aren’t allowed to say anything.

It has to happen…and be gone.

Do this. If you’re so inclined, tell me how it went. Find me at any of the places below and let me know. I bet it’s harder than you think.

And I bet it’s more rewarding, too.


Ray Bartlett is the author of Sunsets of Tulum, a lush, sexy love story set in the heart of Yucatan, Mexico. A Midwest Book Review Fiction selection in Feb, 2016, it’s about choices in life and love and how a simple vacation can sometimes change your entire perspective on life.

A travel writer for top industry publications for more than a decade, Ray specializes in Japan, Mexico, and Korea, where (blond haired and blue eyed) he can blend in like a local (Not!). When not elsewhere, he is on Cape Cod, where he drinks way too much coffee and burns way too much midnight oil. And yes, he’s been known to smile a lot. Even at strangers. Find him on Facebook at RayBartlettAuthor or on social at @kaisoradotcom or go old school and email him via his website: www.kaisora.com Unless you’re sending him links for Viagra and discount prescription meds, he will actually read and appreciate your email.

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Ray Bartlett

Ray Bartlett