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The man with the smile by Gerard Van hoek

Driving by a busy convenience store, my passenger and I noticed a man standing outside holding a sign which read ‘smile’.

My passenger, asked if there was something wrong with him, not so much a question as a statement which hit me like a Tyson blow. I wasn’t judging, I don’t know my passenger’s journey, but I did want to find about for myself what was going on.

Meet Steve. Every Sunday at a busy convenience store you can find him. He stands with his sign, waves at people, asks them to smile and shares compliments. He was unemployed but now calls himself semi-self-employed.  Steve doesn’t ask for money or make anyone feel uncomfortable, working from a distance.

The conversation follows: “Morning Sir, my name is Gerard. What you are doing makes me smile. I am very curious to know more about what you do.”

“Good morning my friend. My name is Steve. I smile because it is good for me. But I have to share it with others too. When you are semi-self-employed like me you have to keep on smiling which brings work.”

“Why only on Sundays?” I asked.

“Well my friend, I work on the other days. One school hired me to make the learners smile. The kids make their own smile placards, have fun, pics are taken, we all smile and laugh. Another school approached me as well, so I now have two clients. But there is more. I have two kids in primary school. To pay their school fees and buy two food parcels every day, I clean the school’s garden and toilets and take out the rubbish.

I was at a loss for words. I thanked him for making people smile.

We said goodbye, Steve didn’t ask for anything.

I turned back to offer him the food I had bought from the store. He was very grateful, smiled and asked me, “But my friend, what is your family going to have today?”

“There must be something wrong with me”. said my passenger very quietly as we pulled off.