Yes indeed, we all have our own stories and daily struggles. As I sit in traffic, on my way to the closest mall, I stare out of my window and I see a child selling fruit on the side of the road. He doesn’t look older than ten years of age. He stands there waiting for someone to support him; every R5 goes towards his daily bread. His parents passed away, now he has to fend for himself and his younger siblings. No child chooses to give up a happy carefree childhood in order to sell fruit among the hustle and bustle of traffic and car fumes. I offer him a smile. Everyone has their own story.

I reach the mall and walk along the path and smile to every passing person. I need some groceries and a new notebook for my notes, I think to myself. I enter the closest retail store. Ah, the smell of new stationery makes my toes curl.

By the smiles, retail staff some eager to help, and others not so eager. The sales assistant looks new by her anxiousness and confused posture about where all the goods are placed. She needs the salary to pay for the rest of her studies. She has dreams and ambitions, you know. The frustrated customer, on the other hand, looks annoyed by the frown on his wrinkly forehead. He constantly checks his watch. Judging by his suit and tie, he has a presentation. If successful, he will be promoted and he can finally move his wife and child out of their sad and depressing state of poverty. If they both knew each other’s situations, they would be kinder and less aggressive. Everyone has a story, you know…

I grab a new notebook and pass the teller with a smile. As I exit the store, I see an old man sitting on a bench surrounded by little children and a young woman. The young woman seems to be resting her tired head on his strong shoulders. They are all dressed in black. In his right hand he carries a bunch of beautiful bright daises. He recently lost his wife, his life partner. The little children are his grandchildren and the young woman is his only daughter. She looks just like her mother. Daises were his wife’s favourite flower. They are all dressed in black because they are going to say goodbye to the late matriarch today. I pass and leave them with a heartfelt smile.

I head home and catch the latest bus. I walk to the back of the bus and aim for the backseat. I sit behind two aunties and flash them a smile; they smile back. They turn to each other and they start talking about “Jeremy” and how he joined a gang and started using drugs.

“I always knew Jeremy was naughty, I didn’t think he would turn out any other way,” says one Auntie.

“And he was so spoiled, his mother bought him everything,” said the other.
Poor Jeremy, his mother never told him that she loved him. She replaced love with material things. He never knew that love meant a hug, a kiss or even a “well done”. He started using drugs because he frequented all the wrong places, just to avoid being at home. Mom would have multiple boyfriends and they would sometimes hit her and Jeremy too. He joined a gang because they treated him like family; he found belonging and role models. Jeremy, like his mother, is looking for love and acceptance. Everyone has their own story.

I reach my stop, I thank the bus driver and give him a smile and make my way home. Amy is standing on the corner, thin and frail. She got involved with the wrong crowd, fell pregnant at 16. She borrowed money from a loan shark to pay for her son’s tuition, now she is forced to sell her body.

I reach my stop, I thank the bus driver and gift him a smile and make my way home. I finally reach home, sit down and inhale the deafening silence around me. I open my notebook and write:

Today, after a long time, I smiled.

I start noting down all the things that I am grateful for. A new notebook will help me with my fading depression. My ‘aha’ moment was when I realised life is filled with ‘aha’ moments, because it’s ever-changing. Everyone has their own story.


Tell us: How far do you think a smile can go?