Throughout my lifetime I have had opportunity to enjoy and share a quote that is probably my most favorite. It contains the secret of what it takes to be happy. Let me share with you...
"There is a destiny that makes us brothers, none goes his way alone. All that we send into the lives of others, comes back into our own." Edwin Markham
I suppose I could stop here and leave it up to you to connect the dots and figure it out, but since this has been a livelong activity of mine, I will explain. If we want to be happy, I mean truly happy, then we need to extend ourselves to others and by doing so, happiness and joy come back to us ten fold. To further explain, I would like to share a true story:
Many years ago, in fact, about 20 years to be exact, my family lived in Nevada. We moved there to further my husbands career. While living there we made lots of friends, but one friend in particular at one point in her life, became withdrawn, somber and depressed. Anyone who would look at her from the outside would think she had every reason to be happy. She had a handsome husband and very beautiful and accomplished and talented children. She had a large and elegantly decorated home and was provided every comfort in life that anyone could imagine. Her husband was a prominent physician and they lived what most people would think to be a charmed life. They had just about everything and anything that life could offer and wanted for nothing except for one thing---she wasn't happy. Eve (as I will call her) struggled for some time, and never felt happy. She went to all kinds of doctors, who diagnosed and put her on medications that were meant to make her feel better. She lost weight, which you'd think would make anyone happy and boost their esteem, but even a slimmer body didn't cheer her up. Her husband and children were at a loss and felt horrible that she was so miserable.
One day, Eve knew that she could not continue to live this way, and determined that there had to be a way to feel better that she had not explored. For the lack of something to do, she decided to go down to the convalescent center which was located close-by her home, and paid a few visits to some elderly women she knew there. She entered the home, and found her way down the long hallway to the room of the first woman who greeted her with joy. How happy she was to get a visitor, and an unexpected one at that. Together the women chatted, and many stories were heard of a past life, family and children. Laughter was heard and warmth was felt between them. This emotion was vaguely familiar to her, but it grew and grew as they chatted. The conversations ended, and Eve was on to the next room, and was greeted much in the same way as the first visit. Time passed, memories shared, and joy once again filled Eve. She was beginning to feel alive again, though at first she didn't understand it. By the time she had visited the last woman in the convalescent home, Eve's countenance was transformed. She felt warmth in her heart, joy in her soul and she smiled as she left to walk back down that long corridor to the parking lot. She had become a different woman. She was happy and actually felt it.
As Eve contemplated the conversations she had with each woman, and reviewed the feelings expressed and shared, she understood that if she wanted to be happy, she needed to give something away and the more she gave the more that came back into her own. Eve gave away her time, compassion and listening ear, and the natural consequence of doing something good like that, was happiness. Her spirits were lifted as she lifted the spirits of others.
Eve's darkness had been replaced by happiness, for the first time in a very long time. She determined that she would continue her visits there, and did. Each visit she would do something a little different for these women, who were so happy to see her. She brought a new brush and brushed and styled the hair of one woman. She painted her fingernails of another. For the next, she brought a favorite treat to share, that had been mentioned in a previous visit.
Eve's whole countenance changed, as she reached out to serve others. She never dreamed that by doing something so simple, could have such dramatic effects on herself. As her family witnessed the change in their mother and wife, they too joined in and also became involved with visiting more and more people at the convalescent center. They all understood the joy that a simple visit would bring.
Friends of Eve's saw the change and asked her what had made the difference in her, because she was joyful and seemed to glow. When she told them, they too joined in, and this service at the convalescent center became a ripple effect throughout the neighborhood and community.
When we reach out and serve others, it does come back to us. Happiness is something that comes when we forget about ourselves and reach out to others.
I hope that all of you who read this post will go out and find your own happiness just like Eve, and if you do, please write back to me and share your experience.
Best regards, Kathleen Gauger