My students have a saying they use often- “Take what you get, and don’t throw a fit.” As I’ve had the privilege of watching them grow and change for the past few months, I’ve noticed that the ones who truly take that to heart and don’t always have to be the first and have the biggest and best are generally the happiest children in my class. It is the few students who are selfish, resentful and paranoid who are constantly whining and pouting and complaining. The least little deviation from their perception of perfection throws them into a whirlwind of despair. They are the first to “tattle” on their classmates for every conceivable offense.
My own favorite saying concerning happiness comes from Lincoln. He said, “Most people are as happy as they make up their minds to be.” A reminder that happiness is within our control. It isn’t what happens to us that is important, it’s how we react to it. Oh, I’m not saying that I’m all smiles and positive words all day long, every day. However, my general outlook is one of peace, contentment, and calm. If I get angry or upset or discouraged it doesn’t last long. I can’t wallow and whine for too long without feeling foolish because I know that my life as a whole is blessed beyond my expectations.
Perhaps that is the secret- expectations. Some might say mine are too low. I should want more and strive to have more. I should not settle for less than the best. Such thoughts remind me of my childhood when we lived without plumbing- no running water, no bathroom. I dreamed of the day we wouldn’t have to haul water in a bucket. So when we moved to a house with a bathroom and water, but no hot water, I was happy for a time. Then I began to wish that we didn’t have to heat water on a stove for our bath or over an open fire pit for the laundry. We later moved to a house with a bathroom AND hot water! It was glorious! I couldn’t understand why my friends thought it was a dilapidated shack. It met all of my expectations and then some.
The older I get the more happiness I gain from my relationships with other people. Sharing the joys and sorrows of others is far more satisfying than any material possession I might own or any temporary accolade I might earn. I wish I could convince some of my younger friends and family members that the house and car and job they have isn’t nearly as important as the way they treat other people. An electronic device or a fancy car won’t sit by their hospital bed and pray for them during a crisis. Money won’t make them well…or happy.
Make someone smile today!