When the weather is good, I take my granddaughter Maggie for a walk. In the spring, summer, and fall, that’s almost every day. She has minimal use of her arms and hands and no use of her legs, so getting out for a walk is a real treat.
Maggie happened upon something that makes her very happy on these walks. She waves to every car that passes us. She holds her hand as high as she can and moves it as much as she can. From behind the wheelchair, I wave too so that people don’t miss her waving to them. It’s like being in a parade!
When people pass by, one of three things happens:
- They see her, give a big wave, and then their face lights up with a smile.
- They see her, give a half-hearted wave, but don’t smile.
- They are looking in a different direction, or they are distracted and don’t see her at all.
For those who see her, who wave and smile, Maggie is like a small gift. It doesn’t matter what else might be happening in their day. It might have been a bad day. Maybe they had a fight with their spouse or are short on money or have some other significant problem. But for that moment, as they pass Maggie, they feel a spark of joy. Those who wave but don’t smile have the opportunity to have their spirits lifted but choose to stay down. They decide not to have their spirits lifted for even a moment from whatever is troubling them. And what about those who don’t see her or are distracted. Because they weren’t looking, they missed the opportunity to be lifted. They lost out on the gift.
This little example of what Maggie and I experience every day is what happens in life. Some, no matter their problems, let light in when it comes their way. They choose to be lifted even for a few seconds. Some choose to stay down, to struggle and feel bad. Some are not even aware that there is light and happiness to be had because they aren’t looking.
Maggie is an excellent example of the first type of person. She can’t walk, talk, feed herself, or even take herself to the bathroom. Maggie has to wait for everything, and we aren’t always as fast as I am sure Maggie would like us to be. She is often in pain. Her legs ache, and she can’t always find a way to tell someone. Of all the people I know, she has every reason to be unhappy. But Maggie is like those first people in our parade. She finds small things that bring her joy. She embraces them and chooses to be happy.
Jokes, for example. Maggie loves jokes. She laughs and smiles and throws her arms in delight. She chooses to see the small moments of joy that happen in some very long days. Being pushed in her wheelchair brings a smile to her face. Waving at perfect strangers, even if they don’t wave back, makes her happy. Maggie fills her days with small moments of joy, making her days pleasant, despite her struggles.
Life has its ups and downs. Sometimes there are so many downs they threaten to overwhelm us, but happiness is a choice. Look for the moments of joy and let them in. They won’t solve your problems, but you will feel better, you will see more solutions, and life will feel lighter.