It seems fitting that I ran into this man today – the last day of 2015.

As I was leaving a coffee shop this morning, he called out to me to get my attention and then promised he wasn’t the neighborhood bandit. I knew he wanted to sell something to me or ask for a donation. And yet, I walked over anyway and joked about the two of us finding the bandit together and putting an end to his mischief. We laughed.

He introduced himself as a vet that’s been denied assistance by the VA. To try making ends meet he sells his poetry. Without waiting for me to object, he handed me a piece of paper and launched into reciting the first of 4 short poems.

Smile

by Eric Hamilton

If we all smile more this world be a better place.

And if we all smiled more they’d be so much more laughter, happiness instead of hate.

So, if we all try a bit harder to put a smile on someone’s face

Imagine the love and power when these smiles meet face to face.

I couldn’t help but smile.

He smiled back and began reciting the rest. I’ll admit, I could’ve been a better listener for the rest of the poems, but his first poem stuck with me. It’s not the most amazing poem I’ve read, but it’s the first poem in a long time that I experienced.

His recitation was a smile for me. As awkward as it was to stand in a public place and have a man recite poetry to me, it was an incredibly pleasant, comforting experience.

I told him I imagined he was selling his printed poems. After he confirmed, I told him that I had a small amount of cash in my wallet and I wanted to give it to him as payment – not for the paper, but for the experience he gave me. Maybe by letting him keep the piece of paper he would give me, he’d be able to make one more ‘sale’ later today? In hindsight, I’ve realized my request may have been unintentionally rude – I didn’t ask how much he thought his work was worth. I just made an offer.

All the same, he smiled at me and insisted I take his poem with me. I wished him many more smiles in 2016 than he’s had this year and I wish the same for you.

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