At the onset of Summer, many of us plan to indulge in a change of scenery and embark on a welcome vacation. Emerging from the darkness of COVID hibernation, some of those vacations may be a little more exotic than usual, trying to make up for the lost year that kept us close to home. Not every journey though requires travel and not every life refreshment is found seaside or on mountaintops. Some complete life epiphanies evolve from physical changes to oneself that reach deep within the soul.

Let’s call her Brigitte. Her life had taken so many wrong turns, leaving her jobless, homeless and hopeless. She was also toothless. But at rock bottom, Brigitte reached out to The Source in Vero Beach and was embraced by an understanding and encouraging “family” of individuals devoted to bringing people like Brigitte back into the sunlight of life. Her journey began with food and shelter and then moved into The Source’s program of culinary training, where the hopelessness began to dissipate as she developed strong kitchen skills. She was on the road to entering the workforce, but needed something that many of us take totally for granted. She needed the ability to smile.

The Source introduced Brigitte to Dr. Tom Balshi, a retired prosthodontist and his wife, Joanne, who are cheerleaders for their programs; they in turn reached out to Dr. Sadesh Kumar, the founder and heartbeat of Wickham Dental Care in Melbourne, known for his extraordinary community service. Three visits to the dental clinic later, Brigitte alighted from the chair with a sparkling smile that spread across her entire face and into her eyes, bubbling up tears of joy, not only on her own face but on that of everyone in the room.

Less than twenty-four hours later, Brigitte interviewed for a culinary position in a local Vero Beach restaurant and was hired on the spot. She was no longer jobless, homeless, hopeless or toothless. She was exuberant. Helping, caring hands had set her back on her feet and given her the opportunity to feel pride for the first time in a long time.

We all know how important it is to have a home and a job, but we sometimes underestimate what a smile can do for the human psyche. It may be a little more costly than a lavish vacation, but the vacation comes to an end and the afterglow is short-lived. The search for a new smile is the journey of a lifetime and its glow may last equally as long. A smile refreshes the face, the heart and the soul of its owner, and when shared with another, produces positive energy. Brigitte’s story is not unique but her smile is. And that is not the end of the journey; it is just the beginning.