A few months ago, I wrote about a sweet and elderly stranger I was waiting on in the Everglades who, in a brief instant, brought great joy – and insight – into my moment, with her reminder to me that “Isn’t this a great day!?” Her incredible happiness was over a fairly lousy meal of a boiled hot dog on a fluffy white bun with, of course, the proper accoutrements. What so struck me was her total sincerity of joy and appreciation. Most likely, she’s passed on by now, but the resonating remnant of joy she expressed then still reverberates in my life some ten years later.
When this lovely memory surfaces in my consciousness, it gets me to thinking about other strangers who, in simply being their joyous selves, have transferred that joy and appreciation to me. I think about the developmentally disabled young man I saw with a group of others, all dragging wheeled suitcases along the sidewalk in front of The Good Earth Market in Billings, a few years ago. Most of the group plodded heavily, heads hung low. But this young man , with a face-wide smile, held his head into the sun and simply glowed with happiness. I was on the other side of the street, but I could feel it, and the power of his joy stopped me in my tracks. Or I’ll think about a floor attendant a few years ago at the Luxor in Las Vegas who approached me and asked if I had any questions. I couldn’t resist. “What is the secret to life?” I asked him. His serious work demeanor transformed as he lit up with a huge smile. He knew the answer to this one! “Why, Love!” he said as he gave me a huge hug. Or maybe I hugged him? Whether I was the huggee or hugger, we both shared a happy moment.
And then I think of a “This I Believe” essay by Mary Chapin Carpenter (and while I’m on the subject of MCC, check out one of my favorite songs of hers – Twilight. It’s haunting, evocative, lyrical …… beautiful). In this essay, she talks about suffering from a pulmonary embolism, having to cancel her concerts, and dealing with an overwhelming depression as she struggled with recovery. Nothing seemed to help. Until one day at the grocery store, when she found her lifeline:
“One morning, the young man who rang up my groceries and asked me if I wanted paper or plastic also told me to enjoy the rest of my day. I looked at him and I knew he meant it. It stopped me in my tracks. I went out and I sat in my car and cried. What I want more than ever is to appreciate that I have this day, and tomorrow and hopefully days beyond that. I am experiencing the learning curve of gratitude. …. the young man in the grocery store reminded me that every day is all there is, and that is my belief. Tonight I will cook dinner, tell my husband how much I love him, curl up with the dogs, watch the sun go down over the mountains and climb into bed. I will think about how uncomplicated it all is. I will wonder at how it took me my entire life to appreciate just one day.
So, Barbara, I’m gathering from your posts that Mexicans are, generally, more joyful and appreciative and “in the moment” than most Americans. Are there individuals – strangers – who have transferred their joy and happiness to you just by their being? And readers – maybe you have similar stories to share?
Sometimes I think we’re conditioned – whether by upbringing, society, media or whatever influence you care to fill in this blank with – to think that we have to do great things to contribute to life and to society. As Mother Teresa has said, “We cannot all do great things, but we can all do small things with great love.” And kindness. And gratitude, even as we joyfully climb that learning curve of gratitude.