It’s especially satisfying to make a grumpy face smile ear to ear, this time of year. I know this feeling well because my secret challenge when confronted by someone who looks like they’re having a really bad day is always to elicit some trace of a smile. And it’s easy to do. 
Me, to someone who is choosing a cantaloupe: “How do you know which one to pick?” Them: “You smell the end and find one that actually smells like cantaloupe.” Me, to the person in front of me in line: “Looks like someone’s having a party!” Really, there’s always some small thing to say about food so it’s an easy start to conversation.
My life is pretty smooth right now, but I know that for many, holiday time isn’t all about smiling faces, warm fuzzy feelings, or friends clinking glasses. Real people often feel very sad and alone. But there has to be some way to brighten their day, even if it’s just smiling back at the bell ringer in front of the grocery store. You just can’t imagine how many grim faces that pass them by every day. 
In all my years of striking up conversations with strangers, I can’t remember a single time they haven’t responded positively. I’ve been in plenty of bad moods myself but know it’s practically impossible not to return a smile, even when conversation feels impossible. And if their grump reflects a really bad year, and life is in the toilet for them, it’s all amplified by the expectations of the season. 
I have to admit that I’ve recently broken my cardinal rule — NOT to get sucked into the commercial world of holiday hoopla. I’m disappointed that I could be so easily distracted from what matters to me most — people. My dear sweet husband, terrific children and their children, special friends and, really, people I barely know. 
Thinking about the faces of the people I cherish always eases any stress I feel, and I hope this week and next will be full of comforts… for you, your family, and the people in your life that matter most.