As we approach another calendar year-end, there will be an abundance of transitory happiness. There are parties to attend, gifts to share and family gatherings to rekindle relationships. Clearly, these are each wonderful and not to be missed. Soon thereafter resolutions will atone for the merriment; plans for diets, exercise routines and new habits will quickly become Topic A.
A Chinese proverb offers perspective. 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 someone else. If we take the parable’s advice to heart it ushers us upon a journey from transitory happiness to joy. For of course, it is not happiness per se that we truly seek but rather a fulfilling joy that bubbles from within. Mary Ann Dockins wrote a little reflection years ago that summarized her own experience with the advice to “help someone else.”
After 30 years of service with American Airlines, I retired after my 50th birthday. At this point, I finally began what God had intended for me to do with the last half of my life: to inspire, to motivate and to create special moments.
In June of 1995, I stopped at the local service station where I regularly get my gas and occasionally buy a lottery ticket. Millie was on duty. She is a kind and loving soul who always has a smile on her face and a kind word for everyone. On that evening, we joked and laughed as we had so many times in the past. I teased her by saying that I would give her $1000 if I won the $10 million lottery. Millie said that if I won I’d better take her to Paris for lunch, and she didn’t mean Paris, Texas. We both got a big “Texas kick” out of that. As I drove off, I thought how interesting it was that for me, “lottery” equaled $10 million, while for Millie, it meant lunch in Paris. Millie didn’t know of my connection with the airlines; around the 21st of December, I was once again at the service station. Millie was on duty. I handed her a Christmas card and asked that she open it and read it as I stood there. Millie opened the card and started reading:
On June 17, 1995 you sold me this lottery ticket (enclosed). Well, I didn’t win the $10 million or the lottery, but you did. Pick your date in 1996, pack your bags and get your passport ready for your luncheon trip to Paris. This is my gift to you for going out of your way to make everyone you come in contact with feel special. Thank you. God bless you and have a Mary’s Merry Christmas!
Millie could not contain herself. She was literally thrashing around in the little cubicle. I could hardly contain myself, either. At that moment, at a soul level, I understood what it meant to create special moments for the people in our lives.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve seen Millie several times. Each time I enter the service station, her face lights up as she reaches across the half-opened door to hug my neck and kiss my face. She speaks of how she “still can’t believe it,” how she phoned her mom, told her boss, and on and on. But what touched me the most was when Millie told me, “Mary Ann, it says in my Will that if I died before I got that lunch, my instructions were to have my ashes sprinkled over Paris.”
May you too have a joy-filled Christmas and New Year!