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

Sitting next to little strangers can be a good or bad experience. Yesterday, at an Indian restaurant, we discovered that it was worth taking the risk. My husband, Steve, our son Sam and I chose a table next to a family with two sons and a doting set of grandparents. One boy was about six years old and the other, who was in a high chair, looked to be almost two.

Of course the little toddler was the center of attention. He was seated with his back to us during lunch and happily munched on food that was passed his way. When he finished his meal, he lifted his arms up for his dad to pick him up. His wish was granted as his dad whisked him out of his highchair and onto his lap.

Then the boy took one look at our table and saw Sam. A big smile appeared across his face and got wider and wider, like there was no end in sight. His cheeks got rosier and rosier. I knew we were all thinking that he was the cutest thing we had seen in days.

Then the giggles rose out of him, giggles that burst out like bubbles. He couldn’t stop and Sam was smiling right back at him, his teen worries about the next day’s math and science tests vanishing from his face.

An elderly couple in the corner booth that sat side by side comfortably but hadn’t spoken a word to each other broke out in warm smiles as they watched the whole interaction in fascination.

The owner of the restaurant went over to the little boy’s table and stood gazing at him, as if to say, Thank you for bringing such happiness to my restaurant. I can make good food, but joy like this I can’t create.

“That’s amazing,” the little boy’s father said to us, looking baffled to his son’s gleeful encounter with a total stranger. “Jack just doesn’t do that.”

He kissed Jack on the top of his head. “You have a gift,” he said to Sam and Sam looked pleased.

“Yes, he does,” I added. “Babies do react like that to Sam. He makes them laugh.”

What a perfect circle: Sam made this toddler laugh, which in turn made Sam laugh. And watching the two of them together made all of us happy. This were smiles all around, thanks to this charming little stranger.

smile