In pursuit of happiness, one small, simple thing at a time

janet's world

April 05, 2009|By Janet Gilbert | Janet Gilbert,Special to The Baltimore Sun

On Monday morning, my alarm rang at 5:40 and I pushed the snooze button twice, just like the day before.

I got out of bed at 6 and went downstairs to make coffee, just like the day before. I let the dog out, just like the day before. And I opened the dishwasher to unload the dishes, just like the day before.

But on this day, I discovered it had been emptied by someone else.

Oh joy! Rapture! Oh unexpected bliss!

During these decidedly less-than-happy-go-lucky economic times, we ought to be on the lookout for silly little happy spots in our lives and celebrate them. We also should give serious thought to creating silly little happy spots in other people's lives.

That emptied dishwasher gave me five extra minutes to sip my coffee and ponder the day's promise.

For me, there's nothing better than a bit of precious time, freed up because someone else has accomplished some yawner of a task in my stead. For instance, there's nothing I like more than opening the dryer and finding it devoid of its usual multicolored clothing wad. Yes sir, an empty dryer is right up there with an empty dishwasher, and nearly as fabulous as an empty hamper.

Well, perhaps there is one thing I like better, and it has to do with something being full. It's when I'm running late, dashing to the car that I coasted into our driveway on "E" the previous day, only to find its tank miraculously full.

"But Janet," you might say. "What about winning the Pulitzer Prize for humor? Wouldn't that be enormously satisfying, on a par with, say, opening the dryer for multiple weeks and finding it consistently devoid of multicolored clothing wads??"

Yes, indeed. But all in all, I do think that the supposedly insignificant bursts of joy are the ones that make or break the quality of our lives.

Perhaps you have forgotten the power of small deeds? Well, you have come to the right column. Because today you have been invited to the Janet's World Insignificant Daymakers Symposium - free of charge!

Here are a few things you can do that cost nothing but a bit of time. And the result? Not very much, by all accounts. But a world of difference in the recipient's world view.

* Play a game of Old Maid with someone under age 5. Make sure you get the Old Maid. Pull out all your best tricks, such as pushing the Old Maid card highest in your hand, insisting that the child "pick that one." Make a lot of disappointed faces and exaggerated sighs. Lose. There's no better feeling.

* Clean the inside of the windshield on your spouse's car. Leave a little sticky note right up there by the oil-change-reminder window clinger that says, "Enjoy the view."

* Write someone a note of praise. Pick a deserving volunteer, friend, public servant or English teacher who has made a difference. I suppose you can pick any teacher who has made a difference, but remember that English teachers have to read many tedious and disjointed essays. At any rate, it doesn't have to be a long note, just a true and heartfelt one.

* Do something that is not your job. Pitch in on a task that you ordinarily leave for someone else. No. 1 on the office list: scrubbing the burn spot out of the bottom of the workroom coffee pot. No. 1 on the home list: doggy cleanup yard detail.

* Wave someone else into the parking space that just opened up. Or let someone get in front of you in the long line to exit a parking lot after a concert or event.

The key here is - don't expect any acknowledgment. But believe always that someone who cares is watching. I do. And it never fails to create a burst of joy in my day.

To contact Janet Gilbert or hear podcasts, go to www.janetgilbert.net.

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