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The Smile That Inspires

In this excerpt from the 2014 edition of Daily Guideposts, a woman realizes that everyone deserves a warm greeting from a stranger.

By Karen Barber, Alpharetta, Georgia

As appeared in

I will change my expression, and smile.—JOB 9:27 (NIV)


I was arranging a meeting to talk about my nonprofit organization with a woman I’d never met. I sent her a link that had a thumbnail picture of me smiling big.

At the bottom of the e-mail, I added, “I’ll smile, so you’ll recognize me!”

The day of our meeting, I arrived at the café we had agreed on 15 minutes early. I chose a table and sat down in a seat facing the door. Each time it swung open, I tried to gauge the likelihood that the person coming in was the woman I was going to be talking to.

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This person seemed too old. This one was dressed like she’d just come from the gym.

After a while the second-guessing became exhausting, so I gave up and smiled at every stranger who glanced in my direction. They, in turn, smiled back at me. The more I smiled in those 15 minutes, the more I became aware once again that we’re all God’s beloved children, deserving of a smile from a stranger.

At long last someone paused and asked, “Are you Karen?” I nodded in relief.

My 15-minute experiment in smiling showed me that it takes more energy to mentally separate people into categories of potential friend versus stranger than it does to briefly acknowledge everyone—all deserving—with a welcoming smile.

Dear heavenly Father, may my deliberate act of smiling renew my awareness that we’re all beloved children of yours. Amen.

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Excerpted from Daily Guideposts 2014 (Guideposts Books).