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 else.
A friend sent me that advice, and I agree. Most of my best memories involve me doing something for someone else, probably because the blessings are endless. Author/physician E. Dorinda Shelley wrote that doing for others helps us replace negative thoughts with happy feelings of gratitude and optimism. Last month, I helped make 250 sandwiches for the workers at the dump here in Mazatlán. My U.S. relatives and friends had donated hotel lotions, shampoos, etc., so I divided them up into 80 Ziploc bags and took them with me, as they are a highlight for the dump workers who spend 14 hours a day in the hot sun, scrounging for cardboard or plastic or metal. The bus was full of volunteers—ranging in age from six to…well, my age– wanting to be a part of the giving. I sat next to Lea, a petite 11-year-old who was vying for the “Snottiest Preteen in the World” contest. She gave new meaning to “making small talk” by responding to my attempt at conversation with one-word answers before turning her body to look out the bus window. Unlike me who has participated enough times that I have no need to be involved in the handouts, most people love to distribute a sandwich or an orange or a bottled water or my bags of goodies. The young gal in charge (her first time in this role) asked that everyone be given a chance to help. Greedy Greg had other plans. As soon as the bus stopped, G.G. bounded from the bus, blocking the doorway while playing hero to the workers. He and he alone would pass out the sandwiches. I was becoming more and more frustrated and finally spoke up to our guide. “Can’t some other people have a turn? I bet all these kids would love to hand out a sandwich” (meaning, of course, except for Lea who probably would hiss at or bite the workers). Our leader said nothing and let G.G. have his time to shine until, finally, a dad yelled out the bus window at G.G. to let others have a turn. By then there were about 25 sandwiches left. When the volunteers re-boarded the bus, Lea chose a different seat. Can I tell you how much fun I was NOT having? What happened to my “happy feelings of gratitude and optimism” replacing my “negative thoughts”?
They were right where they were last year when I didn’t help a young couple at the Walmart auto service department. They came in, dirty and needing to replace a shredded tire so they could continue on their trip. When they were heard the cost–$88.00—they told the lady behind the desk that they didn’t have that much money. And they left. And I watched them go. I had $88.00, but I did nothing. I just sat there, rationalizing my lack of charity, and I now can’t get that couple out of my unempathetic head.
Philippians 2:3: Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves…
Jesus said that it is more blessed to give than to receive, and Paul writes in Hebrews that our sacrifices are pleasing to God. But God doesn’t stop by simply being “pleased.” He wants us to put others first, for then we end up being blessed, many times more than the recipient of our well-doing. (You know, that “happy feelings of gratitude and optimism” thing.) It’s a win-win undertaking, and one with eternal rewards.
Or so I’ve been told.