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People Almost Met: Ray at the Supermarket—The Importance of Smiles

Inspirational essays and articles, with a touch of humor, are a favorite topic for Ms. Giordano, a writer and public speaker.

A Ray of Sunshine Brightens My Day.

This story is one of a series about people whom I have almost met. The stories are about chance encounters with someone that lasts only a brief minute or two, but makes an indelible impression. It’s about encounters that in a small way change my life.

The encounter is too brief for an exchange of names. We may speak or touch, but we haven’t really met—hence the title, “People Almost Met.”

This story is about an elderly gentleman I "almost met" one day at the supermarket. I never learned his name, so I’m just going to call him Ray because he was like a ray of sunshine to me. Ray made me smile.


I Go to My Local Supermarket to Shop.

I looked nice that Sunday when I stopped at the supermarket after church.

A lot of people dress casually for church these days, but I like to dress up. I’m in my 60’s, so perhaps I’m just old-fashioned that way. Also, I work from home, so just getting out of the house feels like a special occasion.

I often stop off at the supermarket on Sunday, around noon, because I go there on my way home from church. I always go to the supermarket on my way home from someplace else--it saves time, car mileage, and gas.

On that day, I wore a white cotton skirt imprinted with flowers with a lace design around the hem. I topped the skirt with an emerald green cotton-knit tank top. It was a perfect outfit for a bright summer day.

I was having a good hair day that day. My naturally-curly hair, once brunette, but now liberally sprinkled with silver, framed my face with soft ringlets. I had applied my makeup with a light touch—a bit of mascara, a dusting of pinkish blush, and a hint of rose-colored lip color.

I Stop to Check Prices.

I took my grocery cart from the front of the store and made my way up and down the aisles.

I checked out every aisle to see what was new and what the “specials” and “bogos” (buy-on-get-one-free) were for the week. I pushed my cart up and down the aisles, selecting the items that I wanted to buy and placing them in my cart.

When I got to the grains and dried beans section, I paused and studied the items intently. There were so many types and brands and sizes.

I was trying to decide which ones to buy, but I was also trying to decide which ones I would actually use. I’m trying to eat more healthily and do more cooking from scratch, but the siren song of convenience foods so often entices me away from my good intentions.

A Motorized Shopping Cart Stops at My Side.

Someone in a motorized shopping cart pulled up alongside of me and stopped. I turned towards the cart and saw that an elderly man—the man I will call Ray—was driving the cart. He sat very erect in the motorized cart.

Ray was very thin, even gaunt looking. He had a weathered face, dotted with brown age spots.

He had a face that immediately suggests kindness and goodness, although it is hard to say just why he gave that impression. I think that it was something in the set of his eyes and mouth— a crinkling around the eyes and a slight upturn to the lips as if he was suppressing a smile.

He was nicely dressed in a sport shirt and khaki pants. Perhaps he had dressed up because just getting out of the house felt like a special occasion to him too.

I thought he needed help reaching an item on the upper shelf. I’m tall so people quite frequently ask me to get something from the upper shelves for them. Usually, it is not a man, but a short woman, making the request.

I turned towards him, but before I could ask him if I could help him, Ray spoke to me.

There Are Smiles in the Aisles.

He said, “A beautiful woman should always smile.” Then he pushed the button on his cart, and sped off around the corner before I could answer.

Of course, as soon as he said that, a big smile broke out on my face. What woman doesn’t like a man to call her beautiful, especially if she is of “a certain age”?

Even though I shop at that supermarket all the time, and I'm quite often there on Sunday at noon, I have never seen Ray again.

I still smile every time I think of Ray, the elderly gentleman in the supermarket that I almost met.

Why Do People Smile?

Smiling may be an innate facial expression. Babies begin to smile around the age of 6 to 8 weeks.

Charles Darwin observed that animals bare their teeth as a warning to other animals to stay away. He suggests that humans adapted this facial expression, but turned it into a smile, to use as a greeting.

The meaning of a smile is exactly the opposite of the meaning of the bared teeth—it says, “I’m not a threat to you. I am happy to see you.”

People from every culture smile. The art shown below shows smiling faces as depicted by many different cultures.

Are There Different Kinds of Smiles?

A smile does not always depict happiness.

Humans can control their facial expressions to communicate. A smile is sometimes used to cover-up what we are really feeling, like anxiety, or anger, or contempt. People are pretty good at reading the meaning in smiles.

A fake smile (called a social smile) differs from a real smile, which is often referred to as the Duchenne smile, after Guillaume-Benjamin Duchene, a pioneer in scientific study of smiles.

  • With a social smile, only the muscles around the lip are activated.
  • With a Duchenne smile, a smile that derives from happiness, the muscles around the eyes are also activated. There is a crinkling around the eyes that is not there when someone “pastes a smile on their face.” Notice the crinkles around the eyes on the top photo below. and compare it to the photo beneath it.

A Real Smile

The "Duchenne" smile or genuine smile.

The "Duchenne" smile or genuine smile.

A Fake Smile

The social smile or fake smile.

The social smile or fake smile.

Turn That Frown Upside Down.

There is a bio-feedback loop between smiles and our emotions. Our brains receive feedback from our facial muscles in order for the brain to know what we are feeling. When you smile a real smile (a Duchenne smile) the brain gets the message that you are happy. It’s a two-way street. When something makes you feel happy, the brain sends a message to the face to smile. The feeling of happiness and the smile reinforce each other. The happier you feel the more you smile, the more you smile the happier you feel.

Smiling generates positive emotions within you and it reduces the level of stress hormones. Some studies have shown a correlation between smiling and longevity. This does not necessarily mean that if you smile more you will live longer—correlation is not causation—but it makes sense. More positive emotions and less stress can lead to better health and longer life.

Turn that frown upside down. A fake smile, just like fake laughter, can turn into a genuine smile. More smiling may bring you amazing benefits.

A Smiling Baby

A baby's smile can brighten anyone's day.

A baby's smile can brighten anyone's day.

Do Men and Women Differ On Smiles?

Women may smile more than men because it is more socially acceptable for women to smile. Does this propensity to smile more make women happier than men? Is it why women, on average, live longer than men?

In general women are more attuned to others emotionally in terms of understanding what others are really feeling. They are more adept at knowing when someone is showing a fake smile or a real smile.

We shall never know all the good that a simple smile can do.

— Mother Teresa

Are People Who Smile a Lot More Successful?

Not only does smiling make you happy and healthy, but it apparently can help you be successful also.

One reason for this is that people unconsciously mimic the smile they see on the person they are with. If your smile is genuine when you meet with someone or you talk with them, you will elicit a genuine smile in return. As a consequence both you and the other person will feel happier and have a more successful interaction.

People who do telephone sales have told me that they are more successful when they smile, even though the other person can’t see them. The person on the other end of the line can somehow ‘hear the smile." I have even heard that you are more likely to get a positive response to an email if you smile while you are writing it.

I’m smiling right now. Can you feel it?

Just for fun

© 2015 Catherine Giordano

I welcome your comments.

Catherine Giordano (author) from Orlando Florida on November 12, 2015:

TheMommyBlogger: Thank you for letting me know you liked it.

Missy from The Midwest on November 12, 2015:

Thanks for sharing your story. :)

Catherine Giordano (author) from Orlando Florida on February 03, 2015:

I always like it when I get a comment on this one. It reminds me of the story and it reminds me to smile. Thanks, Kappygirl.

Kappygirl on February 03, 2015:

Love your story about "Ray". I think people meet for a reason. Also like the added info about smiling. :)

Catherine Giordano (author) from Orlando Florida on January 17, 2015:

teaches12345 Hi, nice to hear from you. I hope I made you smile. I had to look at the picture of the baby smiling because you mentioned it, and darn, if it didn't make me smile. I'm glad you liked my little story.

Dianna Mendez on January 17, 2015:

How precious is that little baby's smile and who could resist returning one? A smile can change anyone's day for the better. I love your story and agree it can have a powerful affect on health.

Catherine Giordano (author) from Orlando Florida on January 13, 2015:

Thank Iris. You are such a good friend. I always look forward to your hubs and your comments. I do always have something that rates high on the geek scale. Throw a bit of education into what would otherwise just be a nice little story. It's value added. Thank you for the comment and votes. Now, I' smiling and blushing a little too. Can you feel it?

Cristen Iris from Boise, Idaho on January 13, 2015:

Yes, I could feel you smiling. Did you feel my smile when I read that you were smiling? It was a Duchenne smile. But of course you know that because, as a woman (and my friend), you are more attuned to emotions.

Whenever I see that you have posted a new article I get excited. If I can't read it right then I anticipate reading it. You use phrases like "correlation and causation" and "Duchenne smile", which appeal to my anthropology geek side. But you are always smart and relevant.

And your story about the man in the grocery store made me smile too.

Wonderful. Voted up, etc.

Catherine Giordano (author) from Orlando Florida on January 10, 2015:

You are so right pawpawwrites. We never know what effect we can have on a stranger during a chance encounter. Have you seen my hub about "Quotes on Kindness." I explore this theme more deeply there. In fact I choose one of the quotes, "Always be a little kinder than necessary," as a New Year's resolution.

Jim from Kansas on January 10, 2015:

Enjoyed reading about your brief encounter with Ray. We just never know what impact we might have with a smile, a kind word, or deed.

I can relate to having to get things off of high shelves for people. I did it yesterday, at Walmart, for a shorter, elderly gentleman. I always enjoy helping people in those situations. It creates a great opportunity to almost meet people.

Catherine Giordano (author) from Orlando Florida on January 08, 2015:

Sallybea: I'm glad it made you smile. The encounter was perfect the way it was. The fact that Ray sped away after talking to me is what made it perfect. Thanks for commenting.

Sally Gulbrandsen from Norfolk on January 08, 2015:

That is cute, seems like the perfect missed opportunity:) It certainly made me smile.

Catherine Giordano (author) from Orlando Florida on January 08, 2015:

FlourishAnyway: It is so very nice of you to share to comment, vote up and share. I really enjoy my people almost met series because it is just a fun fluff piece. When I write on "issues", it is very draining.

FlourishAnyway from USA on January 08, 2015:

I love the concept of the people we "almost met." Information on smiling was a terrific add, too. Nicely done. Voted up and more, shared. :-)

Catherine Giordano (author) from Orlando Florida on January 06, 2015:

Venkatachari M: How nice this morning to wake up to your comment. Thank you so much for sharing it on facebook. It means a lot to me. And keep smiling. I'm glad my story made you smile.

Catherine Giordano (author) from Orlando Florida on January 06, 2015:

Tilsontitian: Now y0u have me smiling. It is so great to know that the story got to you. When I began this "People Almost Met" series, I didn't know if I liked these stories because they happened to me or if there was something in them that would appeal to everyone. It is so gratifying that you liked my story and that you took the time to tell me so. Thanks you.

Mary Craig from New York on January 06, 2015:

I'm glad no one could see me as I read this. Here I am smiling, not smiling, smiling a little then smiling a lot!

Bless the man you almost met for leading to this enjoyable hub.

Voted up, useful, awesome, and interesting.

Venkatachari M from Hyderabad, India on January 05, 2015:

Beautiful hub on smiles. Even though I am a male, I like smiling always. And I smiled reading your hub also. Smiles are good for health. People should always try to keep a smiling attitude even in worries.

Thanks for sharing it and thanks to your Ray also who made you write this article. Sharing it on facebook also.

Catherine Giordano (author) from Orlando Florida on January 05, 2015:

Thank you, MsDora. You made me smile. I can't help but smile when someone calls me beautiful. Right back atcha! I'm glad you liked my little story and the info about smiles.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on January 05, 2015:

I really like this article on smiling. Bless Ray for starting it. Mother Teresa's quote makes a good thought for the day--everyday. Thanks for sharing, and take Ray's comment to heart. You are beautiful!

Ann Carr from SW England on January 05, 2015:

So we do, Catherine! Hadn't thought of that, though I do of course regard you as one of my friends here on hubpages, as well as a fellow 'grammarian'!

Do tell me what the outcome of your experiment is!

Catherine Giordano (author) from Orlando Florida on January 05, 2015:

Ann, your lovely comment is making me smile with happiness. I'm going to try your exercise of a smile followed by a frown. Thanks for letting me know about it.

I think a smile is like the fairy dust in Peter Pan. It makes you light enough to soar.

I'm so glad that we "almost meet" through the comments.

Ann Carr from SW England on January 05, 2015:

I smiled a lot as I read this, especially when you wrote 'I'm smiling now....'! A smile is definitely infectious.

I experimented one day and went about smiling a little more than usual, just from putting happy thoughts in my head (usually there, but this time deliberately) and not a fake smile because I was actually happy. Then I stopped and adopted a serious expression. Amazing! Try it and you'll see what I mean.

Just re-read that and it makes me sound a little crazy; I don't usually go around deliberately changing my expression!

What a lovely man who said that to you! I bet he spreads a lot of happiness wherever he goes. Maybe you'll see him again one day.

This is another great addition to your series. I agree with bill about the use of 'almost meet'.


Catherine Giordano (author) from Orlando Florida on January 05, 2015:

Jodah: I always try to deliver "added value" to the stories by providing research on a related topic, in this case the benefits of smiling. Thanks for reading and thanks for your support.

Catherine Giordano (author) from Orlando Florida on January 05, 2015:

Thank you so much billybuc for your encouragement. I'm so pleased yu like my series. You are right. "People Almost Met" is a great metaphor. How many people do we "almost meet" everyday. I bet if we would take a moment, we would find a lot of stories there.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on January 05, 2015:

I love this story and this series, but then you knew that by now, right? Looking forward to the next. This is a great metaphor for society in general...people we "almost meet."

Pinky de Garcia on January 04, 2015:

Dear Catherine,

This is a beautiful piece. You made me smile while reading this. Truly, smile is the best curve of our body.

Voted up and beautiful.



John Hansen from Gondwana Land on January 04, 2015:

Another good one in the series Catherine. You really built an interesting hub about the benefits of smiling around your brief supermarket encounter.

Catherine Giordano (author) from Orlando Florida on January 04, 2015:

Thank you, Jackie, for letting me know you enjoyed my story.

Jackie Lynnley from the beautiful south on January 04, 2015:

Great story; thanks for the smiles!

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