Thanksgiving – Kindness and Happiness

Brighten someone’s day.

As Thanksgiving approaches, I have been thinking about how each one of us has the capacity within ourselves to spread kindness and happiness in our own way.

Not long ago, I wrote a post entitled Voting is an Environmental Act hoping to help readers connect how voting or not voting affects the environment. I believe spreading kindness and happiness are also environmental acts. This is why.

You and I share a wondrous sphere that we call Earth with billions of other people and non-human living things. Earth is our home, our only home.

People are struggling to survive and so is Earth. It is going to take all of us working together for the common good to heal our planet so that humans and non-humans can enjoy life and thrive.

Only a society of people who respect, value, and care for each other will be able to accomplish what we need to do. Hate, anger, and fear will not get the job done.

Every time you or I encounter another human being in person or in the digital world, we can choose to act with kindness and spread some happiness. I know this is not a novel concept. I am just trying to reinforce it.

For my part, I am endeavoring to be more kind (a work in progress) and to sprinkle a little bit of happiness in my neighborhood on the California Central Coast.

Happiness Sprinkling Project

Laura Lavigne started the Happiness Sprinkling Project in 2012 to sprinkle some happiness in her town of Anacortes, WA with hopes that the idea would spread. It has—all across the country and around the world.

People Wearing Yellow Standing on Street Corner Holding Happiness Sprinkling Signs
A group of people standing on a street corner sprinkling happiness on passersby and offering free hugs. Photo credit Happiness Sprinkling Project (click the photo to visit their website).

The photo above illustrates the simple yet compelling concept. People, often wearing yellow, gather on a street corner or near a sidewalk and hold up inspirational signs to lift the spirits of the people who pass by.

A business card that says “You Rock!” inspired me to adapt the happiness sprinkling idea to my yard.

You can read more about Laura’s Happiness Sprinkling Project and about how I came to have a “You Rock!” card on my desk in the post entitled, Can Happiness Save the World?

Happiness Sprinkling for Shy Introverts

Perhaps if I were an outgoing extroverted person I would have organized a happiness sprinkling in my small town. However, each morning I continue to wake up as the shy introverted person that I am. After pondering ways to spread some happiness in my neighborhood, I came up with the idea of making a sign that said “You Rock!” and putting it in our yard.

One evening in September 2017, I broached the subject with my family during dinner. They did not immediately take to the idea. Nor were they enthusiastic about me writing a post about happiness. A lively discussion ensued.

One comment was that it might be a waste of time and energy as the sign might go unnoticed. Someone else wanted to know what happiness had to do with my core mission, which is trying to convince you, me, and everyone else to live more lightly on Earth. My spouse saw it as another project I would need assistance to accomplish (rightly so).

Undaunted, I declared that happiness is pertinent to the environment. I told my family it would be worth it to me if only one person had her or his spirits raised by seeing a “You Rock!” sign in our yard. Someone replied, “How will you ever know?” That was a good point. However, I decided to proceed and have faith that it would brighten someone’s day even if I never knew it.

My mechanically inclined and creative spouse decided to help me by constructing a weather-resistant sign holder and using Photoshop to create the “You Rock!” sign on three letter-size pieces of printer paper. We installed the sign holder in our yard in a place visible to people driving their cars or walking up and down our street.

Green Groundswell You Rock Yard Sign
The sign holder and our first happiness sprinkling sign were installed in October 2017.

Almost immediately, I decided it would be fun to have a different sign each month. The printer paper sign had been difficult to make and was not durable so my spouse suggested we have some signs made out of corrugated plastic.

We both wanted to use sayings that are universal and are not political or religious in nature so that no one would be offended, even if she or he did not like the saying.

A Year of Sprinkling Happiness

Starting in October 2017, on the first day of each month (or close to it), my spouse and I have been changing out the sign. I thought I took a photo of each one, but apparently, I missed January and September. I photographed those signs last weekend to complete my collection.

You can see how little rain we had during last year’s rain cycle by how few signs show green wild grasses in the background.

During the past year, I received a few waves and a couple of honks from people driving by while I was working in the yard near the sign holder. Perhaps this was just neighbors being friendly and had nothing to do with the happiness sprinkling yard signs, but maybe it did.

On the evening of October 10, a year after we began the happiness sprinkling yard sign project, something unexpected happened.

My spouse and I had walked from our house to the senior center to attend a candidate forum for our local water district board of directors. After the forum, we were trudging up our street (it never gets less steep) when a car stopped in the middle of the street next to us. The woman driving the car rolled down her window. I thought she was going to offer us a ride as some people do when they see us or other neighbors hiking up our street.

You cannot imagine my amazement when she said, “I just want to let know how much I enjoy your inspirational signs.” I said I was glad she was enjoying them and off she went.

This experience sprinkled some happiness on me and reinforced my belief that anyone and everyone can spread kindness and happiness each in our own way.

Thanksgiving is a good day to practice.

Featured Image at Top:  Thanksgiving Decorations with Gourds, Corn, and Paper Native American and Pilgrim – Photo Credit Shutterstock/Magdalena Kucova

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The Book of Joy – Book Review

Be your best self. Share the joy.

If you are a human being, The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World is for you.

The Book of Joy Book CoverYou might expect a book written by the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu to be religious in nature (they do speak of their faith), but this book crosses all political, religious, and ethnic boundaries speaking to us as human beings living on Earth with other human beings. The Dalai Lama and Archbishop Tutu embody kindness, courage, humility, compassion, and joy and they inspire us to be our best selves.

Not long ago, I had finished reading four excellent books for a post series about GMOs and bioengineered food and I still had one book to go. However, I found I just could not read another book right then about pesticides or corporate ownership of the food system.

I wanted to read something that would be uplifting and hopefully enlightening. Scrolling through my ever-growing “books to read” list, I spotted The Book of Joy and I thought, “Yes, this is the book that I need.”

It was.

Book Review

“No dark fate determines the future. We do. Each day and each moment, we are able to create and re-create our lives and the very quality of human life on our planet. That is the power we wield.” —The Book of Joy

The dialogue in The Book of Joy occurs between April 18 and April 24, 2015, when Archbishop Tutu traveled to Dharamsala, India to celebrate the Dalai Lama’s eightieth birthday and to engage in a multi-day conversation with him about joy.

The Dalai Lama and Archbishop Tutu are both world-renowned spiritual leaders and Nobel Peace Prize Laureates who are rarely in the same place at the same time and may never be again so that week in April was a momentous occasion for the two of them and the world. Constantly surrounded by a film crew, they seemed to be able to ignore all the hubbub talking and teasing each other as if they were just two people having a conversation (which they were).

The Book of Joy covers the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Tutu’s teachings on joy, the latest science on joy, and stories of being in Dharamsala that week.

Day 1 – The Nature of True Joy

From the beginning, the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Tutu included all of us, the entire human population, in the conversation and reiterated repeatedly that we are all responsible for developing a happier more joyful world.

They expressed concern that today people focus too much on external, materialistic values and not enough on inner values like kindness and compassion and that unfortunately; this is what we are teaching our children.

Days 2 and 3 – The Obstacles to Joy

Two days were devoted to all the ways that human beings suffer from fear, stress, anxiety, anger, frustration, sadness, grief, loneliness, envy, illness, and fear of death.

It might seem like it would be depressing or distressing to read these chapters, but the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Tutu approach suffering from a different perspective and share how joy can coexist with suffering and that suffering may actually lead to unexpected joy.

Days 4 and 5 – The Eight Pillars of Joy

The last two days were devoted to talking about the foundation of joy including qualities of the mind: perspective, humility, humor, and acceptance and qualities of the heart: forgiveness, gratitude, compassion, and generosity.

“Ultimately, joy is not something to learn, it is something to live. And our greatest joy is lived in deep, loving, and generous relationships with others.” —The Book of Joy

The Bottom Line

The Book of Joy is a beautifully crafted work of inspiration, hope, and joy co-created by the three men listed on the book jacket and many people behind the scenes.

His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, is the spiritual leader of Tibet. Forced to flee Tibet in fear of his life, the Dalai Lama has been living in exile in Dharamsala, India since 1959. He has traveled all over the world advocating for non-violence, peace, inter-religious understanding, human rights, and compassion and has worked tirelessly for over fifty years to free Tibet from Chinese control.

Desmond Mpilo Tutu, Archbishop Emeritus of Southern Africa, was a leader in the decades-long crusade to end apartheid in South Africa and bring about reconciliation between the people. He is a staunch believer in non-violence, an outspoken campaigner for the oppressed, and a co-founder of The Elders, a group of global leaders working together for peace and human rights.

Douglas Abrams is an author, editor, and the founder of the literary agency Idea Architects.

The Book of Joy refreshed my spirit and reminded me that joy is available to every person every day.

Featured Image at Top: The Dalai Lama and Archbishop Tutu blow out candles on a birthday cake during the Dali Lama’s 80th birthday celebration at the Tibetan Children’s Village School in Dharamsala, India on April 23, 2015. Photo by Tenzin Choejor/OHDL.

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