A Simple Prescription for Happiness

When my oldest son was newly in recovery he told me one thing he did as part of his daily practice was every time he went to the grocery store he’d bring at least one cart from the parking lot in with him. It was a small gesture of doing something for others, and helped him get out of his own head.

That stuck with me and I have tried to do the same. I also happen to live in a place that has many retirees, some out shopping with canes, limps, and other physical ailments that make it challenging to put groceries in the car. About three times a week as I am either coming or going from the store I stop to help people, primarily elderly ladies, unload their groceries into their cars and bring their cart back to the store. It’s no global peace treaty, but it’s something.

I’m not sharing this to sound somehow holier than thou, believe me I am far from perfect. No, I share this because what I have found is being kind not only helps others, it helps you.

Today as I was having an NPR moment in my car before heading into the local Stop and Shop, an older woman set off her alarm in her car. As she struggled to find her keys I got out and came over to help. She stopped the alarm from blaring on her own, and then I noticed a cane in her cart. I offered to help put the groceries in her car, handed her cane to her, and chatted as I put her bags on the backseat. I learned her son comes frequently from upstate New York to help her, and how grateful she is. We compared incidents of hitting the alarm button on our car key fobs and how embarrassing that is. Then I wished her a happy rest of the day and wheeled her cart back into the store. And I felt good. I felt happy.

Like many people I am on a continual quest for success, financial security and sense of purpose in my life. And in a world that at times feels out of control small gestures add up.

It can be quite overwhelming to balance it all and not let the seeking overtake contentment. There are days when I admit I lose sight of what I already have and how lucky I am as I strive to achieve more. But what I have found is that clarity, balance and happiness can be found in the most simple of acts. Like helping someone in need with their groceries.