The Price of a Smile

How much do you think a smile would cost?  What value would you assign to a smile given to you?  How would you calculate the residual effect of seeing a smile?

Would you pay .05 (five cents US)?  That’s the price a parent in Luxor would pay for one balloon.  Ah, no problem you say.  It’s a very small price, except in Luxor it might be the choice between something to eat and a balloon for your child.

This idea started when I tossed some balloons from my balcony to kids in the street below.  The resulting whoops and yells resulted in the remaining balloons floating from my balcony.


The lightbulb lit up like a searchlight!  What if I could give balloons to more kids?  Distribution was the issue.  If I walked through the street I would be mobbed!

Mustafa behind the balloons.

Ahh, of course, enlist Mustafa and the carriage.  He was definitely up for this.  What he didn’t know was that he was going to help me blow up 400 balloons on two separate days and give them to the children.


It began in a relatively small way but quickly escalated to a mob scene.  Children came streaming out of buildings like red ants on the march. These kids didn’t need a cellphone to spread the word, they just yelled “balloon”.

Million dollar smiles
Another bag of balloons emptied.


Obviously it wasn’t only the kids who were smiling. We had a great time with the balloons as well.

And along with us, there were smiles from parents, grandparents and neighbors.  Along the street we even got smiles and thanks from store owners and people on the street.

Drivers of several “jitneys” stopped when passengers yelled out. We shared balloons with people who had kids in tow.

So, again, the question, “what price do you put on a smile?”

We calculated that with 400 balloons we could have generated more than 2,000 smiles.  That, divided by the price of four bags of balloons told us that the smiles of children are priceless.

When was the last time you caused someone to smile?  Simple things like telling a stranger on the street how cute, beautiful, interesting, creative or colourful their hat, shirt, shoes, umbrella or jacket is.  When did you tell a store employee their attitude was great? Have you ever noticed how a woman’s face lights up when you compliment a hairstyle?

Make someone’s day, generate some smiles.

Smiles, like yawns are reciprocal.  Share yours today.

People we passed on the street smiled and waved to us as Mustafa drove the carriage to the Karnak neighborhood.










A Carriage for Mustafa

Hello from Luxor, Egypt.

This post is a request for help.

Those of you who know me understand that I believe in helping those in need. Like many of you, I have done my share of volunteering, taking the cards off of the Christmas trees and giving anonymous gifts to children, donating to the local food bank and other small acts of kindness along the way.  I am now putting my faith in you!

Luxor, until 5 years ago was a magnet for tourism which provided the economic backbone for most of its inhabitants.  There is no major industry in Luxor, no technology, no manufacturing or any other economic base.  Tourism was the engine that drove this train.  5 years ago that train was derailed by the political upheaval here and it left people struggling; some more than others.

So, I want you to meet Mustafa the carriage driver and his horse Natalie.


Mustafa is the youngest of 12 children.  His father was a carriage/Caliesh driver who was able to support his family with a healthy tourism economy.  The sons grew and went to school and each one began to work at young age to help support the family.  Unfortunately, the father died when Mustafa was still young.  He never had the opportunity to finish school.  He went to work at 9 years of age!

Mustafa wasn’t asking much from life – the love of a good woman, marriage, family and the ability to earn a decent living. Being illiterate limited his choices.  He joined the military thinking it would allow him to make something of himself, but found after a few short years that his inability to read and write put a ceiling on promotability.  He then went to work for the local police department where his job for 3 years was to stand in front of a building with a gun for eight hour shifts.

The one big thing that these jobs gave him was a way to fix up a small flat where he would live with his wife. This was a definate prerequisite to getting married.  He spent six years just getting to the wedding day.

Today Mustafa has a wife and two small girls to support and educate.  He is determined that his girls will have a better life.  He struggles every day to earn enough money to buy food, pay for his daughter Mina’s school and feed his horse Natalie.

Getting Natalie’s shoes repaired.

His main struggle is not only because tourism is down. The greatest impedintent to his success is that he has to rent the carriage, and  for every dollar he earns the owner of the carriage and license gets  80%, there is no way to get ahead of this curve unless he owns his own carriage.  He has the horse Natalie, which he takes care of, saying she is the important part of the team.  Without Natalie there would be no income at all.

Recently he had the opportunity to buy a carriage and license.  He and his wife went to the bank to see if they could get a loan for the equivalent of 3500 euros.  Well, we all know how those conversations go.  Do you have an account? Do you have collateral? No? Well we can’t help you.  His wife brought her diploma from graduation and thought it would be collateral.  A valuable asset for her, but not he bank.

This man is like Cinderella, stuck in an untennable situation and needing a fairy godmother with a magic wand.  I volunteered for the job of fairy godmother and am hoping you can be the magic wand. If 100 people each decide to donate 35 euros Mustafa can buy his carriage and license and be his own boss, keeping 100% of what he works to earn instead of  a pitiful 20%.  I seriously doubt that any of us would want this type of work situation.

At this point, if I were you, dear reader, I would be asking – what do you really know about this family?  I can tell you that Luxor is a small town and everyone knows everyone. Not one person I’ve met has had anything but good words for Mustafa.  They say “he is good man” and “he is honest man” and “he takes care of his family”.  And, I have found him to be honest, kind and conscientious.  I have been to his small flat (one room, kitchen the size of a closet, and if you need he toilet you have to go downstairs to his brother’s flat); they have taken me to the fruit and veg market helping me buy my vittles each week at local prices.  Mustafa has given me valuable information about Luxor, and how to discourage hassles, teaching me Arabic words and making sure I am treated fairly! They have adopted me into their family.

img_20170103_103833So, how can you help Mustafa?

UPDATE- Mustafa has his carriage!  Many thanks for your help.