Start the Habit


It is apparent that the clock is ticking for me, but in truth it is also moving quickly for even the very young. Our human reality is that we do indeed have to seize each day and each relationship or endure the possibility of missing our opportunities to do so. We’ve all known that God awful feeling of wanting the tell someone how much we have loved and appreciated them only to wait until that person was gone. Our lives can be built on a series of regrets or a foundation of courageously using each moment to its fullest.

Obviously we have routines that we must perform. We go to school, go to work, take care of our human needs. All work and no play makes us dull and even unhappy, so of course we make time for fun. Still there are so many Moments when we might spend just a few minutes doing something greater than just surviving. How long does it really take to reach out to the people around us? As busy as we are, sometimes just one brief comment can literally change the course of someone’s day, and maybe even his/her life.

I know that such things have happened to me. They have been glorious moments when my heart soared. I have so appreciated the people who made those times happen. We all treasure acknowledgement. We all crave love. We want to believe that our lives are making a difference, but we also need to remember and appreciate those who have helped us along the way.

I recently received a thank you note from my friend Linda. I had brought her a card, flowers and a gift certificate on her birthday. It was not nearly enough to demonstrate my undying affection for her. It gave me pleasure to see her smile. I was even more touched when she sent me that note. My husband remarked that Linda was “old school” because so few people bother to demonstrate their gratitude these days. I agreed that Linda is most thoughtful, but I also grieved a bit that we have become so blasé about expressing our thanks when someone does something nice for us. Linda is beloved by all who know her because she is a very giving person who never takes anything for granted, no matter how busy she may be. I wonder why we have allowed this tendency to become less and less common.

Stamps are expensive and snail mail is slow, but there are so many other means of letting people know how we are feeling. An email or text or comment on Facebook can brighten someone’s day. Even just clicking the Like button might make someone happy. Each of us has moments when our confidence wanes. We have all experienced loneliness, loss, insecurities. We sometimes wonder if anyone even notices that we exist. When that one person takes the time to let us know that we have done something that made a difference we soar with happiness, so why don’t we pay such compliments forward?

I recently saw a program in which a young woman was advised to do nice things for people without expecting anything in return. She did as she had been told for quite sometime, but because nobody seemed to notice her kind acts she began to falter. Her counselor insisted that if she just continue her kindnesses she would find the happiness that she sought. Surely enough she realized that she felt better about herself that she had in a very long time. Furthermore the people that she encountered were more drawn to her. The members of her family and those in her circle of friends smiled when they saw her and embraced her in ways that she had not experienced before. The acts of generosity that she performed for others became a kind of gift to herself.

Have you ever noticed that the happiest and most popular people that you know are much like Linda. They never miss an opportunity to be thankful. They send personal greetings that are filled with so much love that the persons receiving them float on air for a time. Another friend Jenny is like that as well. She spreads sunshine wherever she goes. When her home flooded last summer she kept up an optimistic front even though she was actually terrorized by the event. Because she has always been such an angel people immediately rallied around her. She was almost overwhelmed by the response to her cause. Still she thought of others and once her own home was repaired she shared her bounty with those who had also lost so much. She concentrated on students who had also been affected by the floods. She kept a smile on her face and always seemed to be asking how everyone was doing. Her peers acknowledged her optimism and generosity by naming her the Teacher of the Year at her school. It was a fitting tribute for a deserving person, but even then Jenny was quite humble about the honor.

Right now we each know someone who could use a boost or who has had so much impact on our own lives that we would be remiss if we failed to take the time to do or say something amazing for them. Start the habit without expecting anything in return and it will change your life. It is impossible to be unhappy whenever we think about others. There is something quite astounding that happens when we forget about our own difficulties or state of mind and focus instead outside of our own heads. Try today. Don’t delay. Someone somewhere is going to have a very good day if you do.