Stopped in traffic, the large cement truck waits patiently for the intersection to clear. The driver peers curiously out the window of his vaguely egg-shaped vehicle. Then he sees them. 20 schoolchildren with colorful, handmade signs that read simply "Smile." With them stands an older man with a carefully crafted sign of his own, brilliant blue with flashing lights dancing over its surface: "Smile."
"That's what I do. I make people smile." For vendor of the week Jonas Stone, making people smile is a full time job. He stands at the ferry exit, greeting people as they disembark onto the wet gray streets of Seattle. "Welcome to Seattle...Did everyone bring their dancing shoes?" The ferry goers smile back, the regulars stopping to exchange words, affection, and of course, a smile.
For more than five years, Jonas has smiled. "I used to have a sign that said: I'm hungry, I'm poor, I'm broke, I'm homeless and I thought, it wasn't about me, but what could I do for them." The passersby "going back and forth from home to work, from work to home, dragging their chins across the ground." His effort turns dragging chins into smiles "90 to 95 percent of the time."
Once an active alcoholic, Jonas has overcome his addiction and now helps others through such groups as Northwest Indian 12th Step work. A few years ago he participated in local director Linas Phillips' film "Great Speeches from a Dying World" in which he read part of a speech by Chief Seattle. The film showed at the 2008 Seattle International Film Festival.
Jonas Stone has warmed the hearts and sparked the imagination of many, including the 20 schoolchildren who took the ferry to Seattle just to stand in smiling solidarity. Smile with Jonas at First and Marion downtown. n