I saw a woman the other day.  She was about my age, in her early thirties.  She hobbled slowly as she walked because she was probably close to eight and a half months pregnant.  I saw her take a step and wince, one hand putting pressure on her lower back, presumably trying to alleviate an angry sciatic nerve in her left leg.  She wore a wrinkled turquoise maternity top and stained khaki shorts - most likely because the waistband on those shorts was the only waistband left in her closet that fits around her tummy.  Her brown hair hung limply waving of its own accord in various directions.  Her bangs were pulled back with a metal barrette away from her face in an unflattering way.  I wondered if her pregnancy hormones were getting the best of her wayward bangs, too, thus prompting the desperate barrette move.  Another glance at her face confirmed this presumption on my part because I noticed a large red zit to the left of her chin.  Yep.  Score another point for the hormones.  Poor lady.  She looked miserable and downhearted.

I wondered if waiting the final weeks for her baby's arrival was causing her a slight depression the way it does for me?  I've never been good at waiting.  I wondered if she felt as unattractive and unnecessary as I do?  Eight and a half months of inability will do that to a person's psyche. 

As I watched her attempting to put on a brave front and walk without too much wincing, an older gentleman approached her from the opposite direction.  He glanced at her face as he approached, and she glanced at his.  She halfway smiled/grimaced at him while once again her left foot touched the floor.  She self-consciously took her hand from her back and held it loosely at her side, attempting to look normal.  Then her smile brightened perceptibly.  It became genuine and lost most of the grimace.  I'm not sure what caused the change, but I wonder if it stemmed from her desire not to look so pathetic to others?  A desire to spread joy rather than misery?  Or maybe even a realization that she wasn't representing her true state of mind to someone who needed to see God with her?

Whatever the cause, it had a dramatic impact on the white-haired man.  He did a double-take just as he passed her and said, "What a beautiful smile!" 

"Thank you!" she responded.  Her voice reflected appreciation and surprise.

The two of them continued on their opposite paths.  I could no longer see his face, but the pregnant woman's reflected equal parts pleasure, surprise, and pondering.  I have no idea what she was thinking, but the misery and downheartedness I had noticed earlier was erased even though her left hand returned to supporting her back at each step.  She glanced in a nearby shop window and smiled big.  At first I thought she was checking out her own "beautiful smile" reflection, but then I realized she was smiling at two people inside the store.  I watched them.  They did not seem to know her, but one hesitantly returned the smile.

The lady passed from my sight, and I was left pondering the difference a gentleman made with four words, and the difference the lady made in her own life with her choice to truly smile despite her feelings.
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