There is a Chinese Proverb that says: “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.” For centuries, the greatest thinkers have suggested the same thing: Happiness is found in helping others. I couldn’t agree more.
For the past year I’ve been feeding the homeless – or, as I’ve just recently learned – the correct term is now housing insecure. I’ve not talked about it or posted anything on social media, because I really haven’t wanted anyone to know. I knew that when I signed up that first Sunday, that I could easily provide a warm meal to those in need, but what I didn’t know was the impact that it would have on me personally. It’s a quiet act that I do with my family that has profoundly affected us in so many ways.
But Kelly, my best friend and director of my business, who has a front row seat to the good, the messy and the crazy of my life, has seen over the months the joy that it has brought me. We’ve been talking a lot about how happiness is so much bigger than just ourselves and about how our own happiness has a ripple effect in the world. So she encouraged me to share with you what started out as a simple act of kindness but has turned into so much more. So here goes…
I feel so honored to get to serve the people of my community who are hungry. The only time I’m ever hungry is when it’s self imposed – and that’s not very often. I doubt that many of you reading this have had months and years of your life where you weren’t sure how you were going to fill your belly. I know I haven’t. And trust me, I am grateful and don’t take that for granted.
The people I serve are kind and beautiful and grateful. Honestly, I feel like we all could just be one bad decision away from where they are. Many of the people I’ve talked to at these meals have had steady jobs in the past – and secure places to live. But it was one tragic event or many mini-catastrophes that dismantled that security…
Every meal I have cooked for them has been one of my family recipes from my mom’s very own cookbook. I want to be sure that the food I am preparing is the same that I would feed you if you were coming to my home by invitation.
I am always blown away by their kindness and gratitude at each meal. They express it over and over again. They love to come up and ask, “Is this really your momma’s recipe?” And I assure them that yes it is, and if they came to my house for dinner, it’s likely what they’d be fed. They love to hear that. I love to tell them. And I love that it’s true.
I know feeding 75 people one Sunday a month is not going to permanently change the status of the housing insecure in Northwest Arkansas, but here is what I do know:
The anticipation of choosing a menu, buying the groceries and planning the meal makes me as HAPPY as if I were planning a dinner party with the mayor.
I spend the whole morning I’m cooking blessing and sending love to the people that will be eating my meal so when they get there, they’ve already started to feel my HAPPY SPIRIT and love.
I am DELIRIOUSLY HAPPY when I see those folks walk in and they say, oh it’s you again – that means we’re eating good food tonight!
I have a HAPPINESS HANGOVER for a few days after the meal just thinking of all their smiling faces and gratitude for the meal I prepared.
I am HAPPY, HAPPY, HAPPY that as a mother, I’ve been able to get my husband and children to join me in this mission.
I know the time and energy I put into planning, shopping, cooking, serving and cleaning up from this meal BRINGS ME FAR MORE HAPPINESS than if I’d spent that same amount of time reading a book or biking with friends (although I love that too!)
So there you have it. I write this to encourage you. To remind you that connecting to others with acts of kindness whether large or small will not only affect those around us but will actually make YOU happier!
Show some kindness in an unexpected way this week and let me know how it makes you feel.