SIMPLE GESTURES

It must have been late January or early February a few years ago. I was on my way back from a morning walk on the Haul Road, a community walking path that skirts the ocean, when I ran into my good friends, Kate and Lars. We stopped for a moment to catch up, and I must have mentioned seeing a piece of driftwood along the trail that I wished I’d picked up.

A few days later I stopped by their house for a few minutes. Kate excused herself and returned with an oddly shaped gift, wrapped in red tissue paper.  “Happy Valentine’s Day,” she and Lars shouted. I recognized the driftwood before I tore off the wrapping. Lars had found the wood and dragged it back to their car. Kate wrapped it, but I never found out whose idea it had been to make it a gift. I was touched.

The driftwood now lives in my garden by my front door. I see it every time I come and go, and it always brings a smile to my face. When I went to collect my mail a few minutes ago, I noticed it, and it reminded me of a suggestion from an art teacher.

She promoted creating little works of art outside for others to find and enjoy. So on my way back from my mailbox I stopped to fashion a small heart out of rocks from the gravel that covers our dirt road. I laid it in a grassy spot that gets more paw traffic than foot traffic, but I know it’s there, and maybe someone will walk by, see it and smile.

HOW AM I DOING?

Everyone with a business needs to know how it’s measuring up. The conventional measurements are expressed in numbers, of course, but what really charges my batteries is to hear or experience the reaction of people who receive a spontaneous gift of a Happiness Card, (little cards with my photography and an inspiring quote.)

I got a message from a friend who offered a card to an 8 year-old boy who’d been waiting for his mother in her waiting room. He chose one that had this quote on the back:. “Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude.” He was delighted as he’d been read stories about Pooh and Piglet.

An interesting thing to do is to suggest someone choose a card by selecting the photograph that calls to them and then read the quotation. Often magic happens. “I needed to hear this,” or “This message was meant for me,” are comments that have been reported back to me over and over. When the quotation hits the mark like that people are visibly moved.

I had an experience earlier this week that illustrates the point. It was the birthday of a friend, and I’d been invited to celebrate the event with him and his friends at a local restaurant. I tucked a Happiness Card in his birthday card, and the card I selected for him was the peach-colored iris with a quote by Anais Nin. “Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born, until they arrive.” I chose it because he’s someone who has opened up new worlds in me, but it also brought back a delightful childhood memory for him.

                He remembered being out in the country with his family when he was 5 years old. He found an iris, a flower he hadn’t seen before, sat down by it and got completely lost in the blossom. It reminded me of a quote by Lao Tzu that I shared it with him: “Flowers are love embodied. Look deeply at the color. Feel the vibrancy. Put your nose a little closer. Look deeply. Fall inside. Start your life over right here, right now, inside a flower.” I love how a chain of memories and events got triggered by one small card.

Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born, until they arrive. Anais Nin
Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born, until they arrive. Anais Nin

I began making Happiness Cards as a way to use my photography to spread some happiness. Maybe it doesn’t work every time, but it has been working enough of the time for me to feel I’m doing okay.

www.happinesscards.net

 

A GROWING BUSINESS

There are enough Happiness Cards out in the world that everyone in Hajduboszormeny, Hungary could have one, or Pudsey, England, or Alice Springs, Australia. In fact, everyone living on the Mendocino Coast, where I make my home, could have 3 cards, even the kids. Amazingly, I’ve sold and given away more than 29,000 and just took delivery on 9,000 more. A dozen are new photos and quotations: Here are four of the new ones:

To live is so startling it leaves little time for anything else. Emily Dickenson
To live is so startling it leaves little time for anything else.
Emily Dickenson
Love is friendship set to music. Joseph Campbell
Love is friendship set to music.
Joseph Campbell
When we give cheerfully and accept gratefully everyone is blessed. Maya Angelou
When we give cheerfully and accept gratefully everyone is blessed.
Maya Angelou
When you find peace within yourself, you become the kind of person who can live at peace with others. Peace Pilgrim
When you find peace within yourself, you become the kind of person who can live at peace with others.
Peace Pilgrim

www.happinesscards.net

KEEP IT GOING

With the holidays and the traditional gift-giving season behind us it’s easy focus on our own concerns and forget about giving until next year. But if one of our concerns is feeling happy, we’d be better served by finding ways to give, give, and give some more. Science has told us in many studies that giving makes us happy. An excellent, fun to read article from Happify has lots of information and clever graphics about the science behind giving and some suggestions about how to keep it going.

The article was published before Christmas when we tend to spend more on gifts than we do throughout the year, but it’s not necessary to spend anything to make yourself and someone else feel good. A smile, a hug, a kind word from you can make someone’s day…and yours, too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

AVOID THE CHAOS

 

I’m not going near one of the super stores this Friday, or on Thanksgiving Day either.  I live 90 miles from the nearest one so it’s not too hard to make that pledge, but even if one were next door I’d avoid it. As for shopping on Thanksgiving, forget it! The poor employees, who probably aren’t making enough to afford most of what they’re selling, need the day off to spend with their families, watch a football game, and relax.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, in part because it’s not sullied by rampant materialism, but recently stores are opening late on that day, too. I can imagine their opening hours creeping earlier and earlier until the holiday itself is co-opted by commercialism.

It was Abraham Lincoln who, in 1864 at the height of the Civil War, declared the last Thursday in November to be a National holiday, set aside for giving thanks. So we owe our 16th prez our thanks for Thanksgiving.

The idea of holiday shopping beginning the day after turkey day originated in 1924 when Macy’s held their first Thanksgiving Day parade. Retailers geared up for shoppers and looked forward to the sales generated between the holidays.

In 1939, Thanksgiving was due to fall on the fifth Thursday, November 30, thus shortening the days between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Merchants and shopkeepers petitioned President Roosevelt for help. Their timing was good as the U.S. was still struggling through the Great Depression, and FDR wanted to do whatever he could to stimulate the economy. So in October of that year, he moved Thanksgiving to the 4th Thursday in November.   Not too surprisingly, his declaration didn’t please everyone, and many people stuck to the old calendar until 1941 when Congress made it law.

The day after Thanksgiving was named Black Friday by the Philadelphia police because of the awful traffic jams created by shoppers. Retailers, understandably, weren’t crazy about that association, so they began to refer to it as the day they passed from red to black on their balance sheets. Although that isn’t true for many of the big retailers who are profitable all year, the idea has stuck.

Of course it’s not necessary to join the throngs clogging the streets and pushing and shoving their fellow bargain hunters. Anyone with a connection to the internet has probably figured out how to take advantage of the low prices on Black Friday without leaving home. Which brings us to my one day offer of my new Happiness Cards: They will be available at the LOW price of $10 a box on Friday, and I’ll pay the shipping. They make super gifts! What could be better than providing your friends and family with a beautiful and inspiring way to spread a little happiness in the New Year.

GIVING MAKES YOU FEEL GOOD

With the holidays just around the corner and Christmas trees showing up in stores before Halloween I am tempted to stay in bed with the covers pulled over my head until the chaos subsides. But, according to many psychological studies and expert wisdom, I’d be missing out on the many benefits I’d get from participating in gift giving.

Most of us have experienced the high that can come from looking for, finding and presenting the perfect gift for a beloved family member or friend. And research has given a scientific validity to that high. In a New York Times article by Tara Parker-Pope, A Gift That Gives Right Back: The Giving Itself, she tells us that it’s the giver, rather than the recipient, who reaps the greater psychological benefits.

An important part of shopping for someone else is thinking about that person and what he/she needs or would like. Grabbing something off a shelf and rushing to the cashier at the last moment probably won’t produce much of a positive effect. It’s the “thinking about” before-hand that strengthens the connection between giver and receiver and results in good feelings for both. Maya Angelou wrote that “When we give cheerfully and accept gratefully everyone is blessed.”

Perhaps it is O. Henry’s poignant short story, The Gift of the Magi, that expresses the spirit of giving most eloquently. I had planned to outline the story here, but if you haven’t read it, it would be unkind of me to clue you in on the ending. It’s the ending that contains the message. Here’s a link to the story.

www.happinesscards.net