Monday, December 7, 2015

Monday Musings ~ The Key to Happiness

“Excuse me, ma’am,” a woman’s voice calls.

I glance up from a kneeling position, where I’ve just spent the last five minutes shoring up a clutter of handbags on a bottom shelf.

“Is this purse on sale?”

She thinks I work here.

“Oh! Sorry. I don’t work here.”

Appearing perplexed, the woman wanders off.

Who can blame her? Most people get paid for straightening store merchandise. I’m the nut who does it for nothing.

Like many women, I consider myself a “fixer” of things. I visit doctor's offices and straighten pictures on the wall. In line at the grocery store, I spruce up the magazine racks. Just trying to help.

There is a downside to this proclivity, however. A “fixer” often loses sleep, bites nails, and drives the family and sundry acquaintances bonkers, but it is my nature to want to help other people—often to the extent of going way beyond the call of duty and common sense.

Once I gave away a very nice bedroom suite. When the recipient informed me she was having trouble finding someone to come get it, I said no problem, and volunteered The Man and his truck to be the deliverer. However, after discovering she lived 30 miles across town, The Man flatly refused. The woman was getting the furniture free, he said. Couldn’t she at least come get it? 

He had a point, so we came up with a Plan B, but I would have delivered it—and smiled all 30 miles home. Just trying to help.

I used to love hearing my grandfather tell of "the good old days" when neighbors were neighborly. If a storm blew your fence down, neighbors helped you mend it. If the baby got sick, a neighbor fetched the doctor for you. People often dropped in with a fresh pie or a mess of butter beans, just for the sake of helping out a neighbor.

Across the street from us lives a retired man and his wife. The day we moved into our home, Lynn walked over, introduced himself, and said, "Now if there is anything you need, just let me know. You need to borrow a phone, come right on over. Anything at all, just ask." 

It was like a breath of fresh air. And in the 26 years we have been neighbors, Lynn has remained neighborly, and we have enjoyed returning the favor.

There is something mysterious that occurs when people help each other. Suddenly, instead of thinking about your expanding girth, the shape of your nose, or the terrifying fact that you inherited your mother's hips, you feel at peace with yourself. Content. Happy.

The great humanitarian, Albert Schweitzer said, “I do not know what your destiny will be, but one thing I know: the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who will have sought and found how to serve.” 

Perhaps Mr. Schweitzer is right:  Serving others is the key to true happiness. Perhaps it is the only way to uncover the excellence within ourselves.


A version of this essay first appeared in The Dallas Morning News. All rights reserved.


  1. Helping others is a good thing. I am glad, however, that your husband balked at being the delivery man. There is such a thing as being taken advantage of. And doing good things will not get a gal to Heaven either. ;> My husband balks whenever I tidy a table in a fast-food restaurant. He says that my actions are making others think that the table is clean when it definitely is not. Hmmm...he may have a point.

  2. really enjoyed this.

    A week ago a neighbor helped me out when the septic tank
    under 3 or 4 feet of dirt need digging up and emptying. Refusing ANY monetary payment he was thus repaid with a ham, a fresh batch of scalloped potatoes, cabbage rolls and baked good:)

    Love the quote at the end as well! never heard it before.
    Here's to a week of 'helping'. I smiled at your stories because I can relate:) I can't help myself when a store-shelf is crying for some creative arranging!!!

  3. Beautiful words and beautiful thoughts, my friend.

  4. This is beautifully written and inspiring...especially for this time of year!

  5. My husband is a natural born doer...he gets it from his mother who was almost to the extreme. I have to work at it more as it doesn't come as natural to me...however, nothing blesses me more than when I know I have blessed someone else :) Great reminder, Dayle.


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