The key to happiness is the most sought-after subject on earth. When we’re feeling discontent, we tend to think a change in our lives is the answer to happiness. But after landing that new job or moving into a new home, are we truly happy? There’s much more to finding happiness than we think.
Victor Hugo (1802 – 1885) felt he had the answer when he said, “The supreme happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved; loved for ourselves, or rather, loved in spite of ourselves.”
Yes, it is a joy to be loved, but I feel greater joy when I show my love to family and friends. I find that I’m the happiest when I’m thinking of their comfort. What do my loved ones or neighbors need from me? What can I do to make their lives a little easier? Should I bake some cookies and take them to a neighbor? Should I volunteer to help a family member by driving her to a doctor’s appointment? How about taking a son, daughter, or grandchild out for ice cream? What if someone has a few troubles and needs a listening ear? No lectures. Just listening.
Royden G. Derrick said, “Happiness is a by-product of helping others. No man ever finds happiness by thinking of himself. True happiness comes when we lose ourselves in the service of others—when we are merciful to our fellowmen.” (Royden G. Derrick, “The Beatitudes and Our Perfection”, Ensign, May 1977, 57)
Is joy all about service? Being merciful to our fellowmen? Are we happier when we help others?
Thomas S. Monson said, “To find real happiness, we must seek for it in a focus outside ourselves. No one has learned the meaning of living until he has surrendered his ego to the service of his fellowmen. Service to others is akin to duty, the fulfillment of which brings true joy.” (Thomas S. Monson, “The Joy of Service,” New Era, Oct. 2009, p. 4)
How about a sincere smile or greeting? It’s amazing how something as simple as a greeting affects us. I suspect it’s because friendliness makes us feel warm inside. When someone goes out of his way to greet us, it feels so good. Have you ever thought about greeting someone you don’t know? What kind of reaction would you get? When someone smiles my way and greets me, it makes me feel “on top of the world.” Smiles are contagious. When you smile at a baby, he automatically smiles back. Smiling brings a bit of joy to everyone. To me, the answer to happiness is bringing sunshine into the lives of others. Once again, that brings us back to serving our family and neighbors.
David O. McKay said, “There is one thing needful for joy to which man is entitled, and it is the greatest of all. It is the service we render mankind.”
Have you ever thought about someone who needed comfort but put it off because you were too busy? How many of us has dropped what we were doing and helped another? When we know someone is feeling depressed, it does not take much to give a call and see how he or she is doing.
Many times we’re burdened down with our own trials in life and find it difficult to help those in need, but the desire is still there. How could you help someone while your state of mind is so focused on healing yourself? Those who are in this situation have been able to help because they have endured a similar trial. Sometimes our trials make us more sympathetic so we can help others.
I would like to relate to you the most selfless and touching act of charity. A man was expecting his brother, wife, and family to arrive in America from Germany. He had not seen his brother for many years. His brother and their family had endured many trials, had been taken to the Russian front, and survived the holocaust of World War II. Now he was arriving in three weeks, two days before Christmas.
Without hesitation, he rented an affordable apartment where they could live. Then he knocked at the door of the Bishop. He told him that his brother was coming to America and invited him to take a look at the apartment to see what he thought.
When they arrived at the apartment, the man said, “It isn’t much, but it’s better than they have in Germany.”
As the man opened the door, the Bishop was disheartened when he saw how dreary the place looked. The paint on the walls was peeling, the linoleum floor had a large hole, and the only light in the room was a forty-watt bulb.
The Bishop shook his head and thought, “What kind of welcome would this be to a family who had endured so much?” He couldn’t sleep all night, thinking about the condition of the apartment. The following day was Sunday and he could not keep his mind on the meeting. When someone inquired what was bothering him, the bishop told everyone about the family.
The story of this family touched the hearts of many. One by one each person came up to him and asked if they could help by giving of their services. Before the Bishop realized what was happening, he had a bunch of men volunteering to help make this apartment livable.
One person said he was an electrical contractor and would like to rewire the apartment and put in adequate lighting. He even asked his suppliers to contribute a new stove and refrigerator in the spirit of Christmas.
The excitement grew as everyone thought of ways they could help. A man was in the carpet business and provided carpet for the living room. Another man was in the paint business and furnished the paint. The women volunteered to fill the cupboards with food. Many people went in and out of that apartment during the next three weeks with charity in their hearts.
When the family arrived from Germany, the man took them to meet the Bishop. It was a joyous occasion. The Bishop then accompanied them to the apartment.
As they walked up the stairs, the man said to his brother, “It isn’t much, but it’s more than you had in Germany.”
Little did they know what was behind those doors! As they walked into the apartment, the family’s eyes widened as they saw their beautiful surroundings. The once dim room was now lit up. Beneath their feet was a lovely carpet. The cupboard doors were open, displaying cans of food. And standing before them were the people who had volunteered their services. They had wide smiles on their faces. Before anyone could say a word, everyone began singing “Silent Night.”
With emotion and gratitude, the father turned to the Bishop and hugged him as he said, “Mein Bruder, mein Bruder, mein Bruder.” In English, it meant: My brother, my brother, my brother! (Thomas S. Monson, A Provident Plan—A Precious Promise, Ensign, May 1986.)
When I heard President Monson tell this experience, my heart softened and tears welled up in my eyes. This was a perfect way of showing charity to a family who needed it. I would like to share a poem that describes what a lovely day consists of.
A LOVELY DAY
Actually, I couldn’t say
What made this such a lovely day.
The air was chill, the clouds hung low,
Yet it was lovely—that I know.
Perhaps it was because someone
Smiled my way and brought the sun;
Maybe it was only that
A friend stopped for a little chat;
Or that a neighbor passing by
Called a warm and friendly “hi!”
Possibly it’s special glow
Came from helping one I know—
Not much really—Just a hand
To let him know I understand.
Nothing happened, actually,
To set this day apart for me.
Things went along the usual way—
But oh, it’s been a lovely day! —Anonymous
The key to happiness has puzzled many people. Whether joy can be found in serving others or a belief that we are loved, you can’t deny the fact that a simple smile or greeting can make a difference in our lives. Perhaps one of the secrets of happiness is smiling.
Remember: “Those who bring sunshine into the life of others cannot keep it from themselves.” –James Matthew Barrie (1860 – 1937)