Apples and Toothless Smiles


Tendonitis prevented me from serving at the homeless shelter today. So, let me share a tale from last summer.

A  sad-looking, older woman named Valerie sat alone at a table. When I smiled at her, she smiled back instantly and beckoned me to come over. She then asked if I had a bag to hold some goldfish crackers. She was full now but she wanted them for later. We have no baggies and it’s not really our policy to provide take-out food. Except for the truly homeless. I didn’t recognize her as being one of the homeless people I usually see here. But, I really didn’t know. In hindsight, I guess, I should’ve just come out and asked her if she had a place to sleep at night.   


I glanced at the counter and saw a large stainless steel bowl full of red apples.

“How about taking an apple?” I was thinking she could probably pocket an apple.

“I can’t eat an apple. I have no teeth!”

And, you know what?  I hadn’t even noticed that at all. Because to me, she had the most beautiful smile. The kind where the eyes crinkle and the whole face lights up. It’s funny how we all want to look good, be the right weight, have the whitest teeth, etc. but to tell you the truth, it’s your smile that makes you attractive to others. And even though this woman was toothless, she still had an award-winning smile that reached up to her eyes, the soul of a person.

Valerie told me she’d been discharged from the hospital 10 days ago. She’d been on the street since then but sleeps at another mission which opens their doors at 11 pm for the night. She just wanted some food for later on in the evening.  To tide her over until morning. After hearing her story, well, that made me try harder to see what I could do for her. I was successful in finding a bag for her goldfish crackers and tossed in some soft Breton crackers that I had spotted in the kitchen. And a hot cross bun. Our cook retrieved a homeless to-go lunch bag for her, which included a pull-top soup can, granola bars, fruit cup, and bottled water. Plus the cook handed her a new backpack. Together we found her some new-to-her clothing to put in the backpack.

It’s good to know the whole story. Everybody’s got one.

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