Happiness is as elusive as it is transient. It has the attention span of a butterfly and about the same lifespan, flitting here and there, and then disappearing just as quickly. So, how can you identify the happiest moment in your life? True happiness is a culmination of lots of little moments over a lifetime, moments that come from the simple things.
People often cite specific events as their “happiest moment,” but putting too much emphasis on one moment is like investing all of your money in one stock. What about the rest of your moments? Are they any less valuable? When people put a lot of emphasis on a single event, like a wedding, there is a rush of anticipation that builds as the moment gets closer. However, once the wedding day finally arrives, the moment can feel anti-climactic and is followed by disappointment as the moment is quickly gone. A marriage, on the other hand, is made up of millions of moments, each one building on the one before: watching a movie, sharing a cup of coffee, cuddling in bed on a rainy day.
In the midst of all the damage from the fires and floods, the victims of these natural disasters are suddenly aware of the importance of the simple things, like food, shelter, and clothing. Suddenly, the big things aren’t quite as big as they used to be. A helping hand when it is most needed, a shoulder to lean on, and words of encouragement at the right time bring far more joy than a new car or the newest fad. It is a simple moment that will bring a smile even as a distant memory. In the movie, Sound of Music, Maria, played by Julie Andrews, tries to comfort the children who are frightened by a thunderstorm with a song entitled “A Few of My Favorite Things.” The chorus of the song says, “When I’m feeling sad, I simply remember my favorite things, and then I don’t feel so bad.” She gets the children to list some of their favorite things, and they all begin to smile and laugh, momentarily forgetting about the thunderstorm. The children don’t mention money or fame; they list simple things that bring them joy.
Life itself is made up of countless moments of simple things that bring us happiness if we only take a moment to look for them. In the end of the movie Miracles from Heaven (2016), the main character, played by Jennifer Garner, tells the story of her daughter’s illness and miraculous recovery. She quotes Albert Einstein: “There are only two ways to live your life: as though nothing is a miracle, or as though everything is a miracle.” In her anger over what had happened to her child, she had not been able to see the miracles all along their journey, miracles of kindness, goodness, love, and mercy. Miracles are all around us if we will just look for them, often in the form of a simple act of kindness.
In my life, happiness comes when I take a moment to see the miracle in the simple things around me. The guys where I work taking time out to repair my car for free, my cats snuggled beside me when I am sick, a word of encouragement at just the right moment. These moments, these miracles, these simple things bring happiness. None of them is greater than the others, but when they are all added together, they are lifetime of happy moments strung together like bright lights on a Christmas tree. It is when they are all lit together that they make the greatest impact. Enjoy the light of each simple moment as it happens, but also see it as part of something greater. So, when the butterfly flies away, you know another one is sure to come along soon if we only pay attention.