There is a Chinese saying that goes: “If you want happiness for an hour, take a nap. If you want happiness for a day, go fishing. If you want happiness for a year, inherit a fortune. If you want happiness for a lifetime, help somebody .”
Humans are inherently social species. We have survived and thrived because we take care of one another and generosity is, in part, a survival instinct. Even the simple act of sharing food or shelter with another person is an example of humanity’s intrinsic generosity. If we were an overwhelmingly selfish species, we would’ve gone extinct a long time ago.
So is there a relationship between generosity and happiness?
My own experience has taught me that happiness has never come when I focus on myself. When I’ve gone out searching for happiness I’ve never found it. A thousand and one one hangovers is proof enough. It’s been my experience that when I’ve been able to give happiness, I’ve been given happiness.
Others have reported similar experiences:
“I had recently moved to Boston from Florida. I take the commuter rail into the city, and one stormy winter’s day the train was delayed for hours. People were cold, wet, tired and grumpy. When I finally made it to my car, well after dark, I found it covered with snow and blocked by a two-and-a-half-foot wall of snow from a plow. Without a shovel and feeling frustrated and teary-eyed, I searched my car for a makeshift tool. I had to resort to using my hands to clear the snow. We New Englanders have a reputation of being “cold” and I dreaded asking someone to lend me something, further delaying their journey home. After making a couple of passes with my arms and hands to clear the snow off my car, I looked up to see a fellow commuter not only shoveling my car out, but offering me his snow brush to clear off my windows. I couldn’t thank that man enough! We made fairly quick work of digging my car out and we both went our separate ways. On my way home, I cried like a baby from happiness and the unexpected kindness bestowed upon me.” ―L. Lou Dan, Boston
Imagine the happiness of the fellow commuter!
“I was pregnant while working at a high-volume, low-cost vet clinic. I worked in surgery, eventually couldn’t do the physical labor, and my job’s HR department refused to help find me placement or help accommodate me. They effectively let me go, and not having protection or means (my husband stayed home to care for our special needs daughter), I applied for unemployment. They actually FOUGHT me on it and I was so fortunate to have a compassionate case worker to help with my claim. The second time around, my assessor listened to me bawling, pregnant and scared trying to figure stuff out. A week after I spoke to that woman, I received an anonymous check for $200 to help with groceries. I don’t know her name but that woman saved us. If you’re reading this, know you fed my family, helped take some bills off our plate and made a lasting impression for life.” ―Teresa Banks, Chicago
Imagine the happiness that assessor experienced!
“After hiking to an obscure waterfall for a few hours of our weeklong backpacking vacation, we returned to our car to find that it had been broken into, belongings gone. We had our plane tickets, ID, and the keys to the car. No cash, no clothes, no wallets. We drove to the nearest town and asked if there was a police station where we could report the theft. The officer on duty was a native Hawaiian woman who was very sympathetic, took our information and then invited us to have dinner with her. At the end of her shift, she took us to her own home and we were welcomed as precious guests by her large family. They insisted that we stay the night with them. The next morning, our angel police officer took us to the office of a local lawyer who managed an emergency fund for locals fallen on hard times. He suggested we borrow some money from this fund to get us home and pay it back when we could. After filling out some paperwork, we had enough cash to survive and an invitation to have lunch with the lawyer. This experience, which could have been a disaster for us, ended up being the highlight of the trip, and I will never forget the kindness and generosity of this small community.” ―Carolyn Reynolds, Maui, Hawaii
Imagine the happiness that officer experienced!
Jimmy Durante, a great entertainer from years ago, would dedicate his TV show each week to a lonely woman, living in some small town, in need of a friend. Her name was Mrs. Calabash. He’d then sing this song as a reminder that we’re all charged with making someone happy. So here’s to you, Mrs. Calabash.
Just a thought…
Copyright © 2019 Patrick J. Moriarty. All Rights Reserved.
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