The Traveling Smile

    “The Traveling Smile,” Ensign, Aug. 1985, 67

    The Traveling Smile

    I sat on a San Francisco bus going home, tired and depressed after one of those days when nothing seemed to go quite right. It was rush hour, and the bus was packed with people—dull-eyed, tired, aching, and short-tempered.

    A large, package-laden lady got on the bus. Every seat was taken, so she had to stand in the aisle near me. War Horse, I thought as I looked at her drawn and bitter face. That was a pretty good description.

    Seated across the aisle next to her was a small, plain-looking lady, someone you wouldn’t ordinarily notice. She looked up at “War Horse” and her face was lit with a smile. “Could I hold your packages?” she asked. “It’s so hard to stand when your arms are full.”

    The woman glowered in confusion and looked away. But when she looked back, the smile was still there. Her wrinkled brow eased some as she handed over the packages. “They are very heavy,” she said. “There are two pairs of specially made shoes for my crippled son, and they weigh twenty pounds a pair.” She paused, and the next words seemed very hard for her to say: “Thank you.” They chatted on, and as they did, she smiled. Her whole face softened and her body relaxed.

    Soon the seated lady got off and the other woman sat down in her place. But her expression had changed, and she smiled up at the young coed standing above her. “Could I hold your books for you? It’s difficult to hold on with books sliding every which way.”

    The girl smiled back, and as she gave up her books I heard her ask, “Did I hear you say you have a son who goes to Jefferson? That’s where I go to school.”

    I had to get off at the next stop, but I imagined that smile traveling all over San Francisco. I too smiled, and wasn’t so tired anymore.

    Illustrated by Kelynn Z. Alder