A few weeks ago, my kids and I had a rough day. Out of exhaustion and desperation we ended up in a fast food restaurant drive-through line. It was dinnertime, so the line stretched endlessly. As we waited, I spent the time ignoring the whining from the back seat and calculating the exact number of seconds until bedtime. As you can imagine, the car’s atmosphere ran rather short in the happiness department.
But everything changed when we pulled up to the take-out window. “The person in front of you paid for your meal,” the clerk beamed. In the middle of my seconds countdown and the children’s bickering, a complete stranger had sprinkled in joy. I smiled. The kids cheered. I paid for the person behind us and we madly waved in thanks to the car in front of us. We laughed as we waited to see the people behind us get the news that someone had paid for their meal. They didn’t disappoint. They shouted, “Thank you!”and we waved back. At least three cars full of people went home that day feeling grateful and happy with the world.
This experience made me think. Such a small gesture had a profound impact on our evening. These days, happiness feels like a rare commodity. The world feels antagonistic. And yet, with one small act, all our bad feelings were transformed. What if everyone sought out ways to bring happiness to those around them? After watching the transformation in my own car, I suspect it could change the world.
I want my family to be a source of that transformation, to bring happiness into the world when ever possible. My hope is that these small acts will spread joy like ripples in a pond.
This January, along with our personal resolutions, we are setting a new goal as a family: to look for ways to spread happiness to the people around us. I’m not talking about paying for people’s food all the time or running around hugging complete strangers. I want to train myself and my kids to keep a lookout for ways to transform someone else’s day as we move through ours.
Will you join us? When you go to the grocery store, make eye contact with the cashier and smile. Hold the door open for someone on your way out. Leave big tips. Do what you can to brighten the day of those you come in contact with.
I like to think that if enough of us do this, we could change the world. But no matter what happens on a global scale, one thing is certain: acts of kindness have a definite side effect. When we make someone else’s day better, we improve our own as well!