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Happiness Makes its Rounds
One snowy winter in a small town called Marratin, about a week before Christmas, an incredible series of events unfolded. The following story recounts effects of one small act of kindness. Hopefully, you will read through it and find something worth passing along…
I remember my first time shopping for jeans so clearly. I mean, it’s not like it was so long ago. Actually it was only two weeks ago, but I’m pretty sure it will always be clear in my mind.
“Ugh, why does it have to be so hard to find a comfortable pair of jeans?” I tried on various sizes and cuts, but nothing compared to my old, worn out jeans, which had become threadbare and tattered.
“All jeans are stiff at first,” my friend, Julia, patiently responded. “Once you wear them a few times, they’ll feel fine. That pair looks good, you should get them.” I had never actually owned a pair of new jeans, just hand-me-downs from friends and relatives. Julia happened to be an experienced shopper, so I trusted her.
After I had picked out a couple more pairs of jeans, I was standing in line with the money I had earned, hoping I would not regret this shopping binge. As the person in front of me was collecting her bags and receipt from the cashier, an old lady approached me.
You’ll never guess what happened next, I thought these kinds of things only happened in cheesy stories and corny television shows!
“Excuse me,” she said softly. “Is your purchase over fifty dollars?” I wasn’t sure who she was, and my first guess was that she was an employee. After noticing the lack of any uniform and considering her age, I came to the conclusion that she did not, in fact, work at this clothing store. I was left perplexed as to why she was talking to me. After a moment’s hesitation, I answered an uncertain “Yes.” She pulled out a card from her wallet and handed it to me.
“Merry Christmas,” she said with a smile. I studied the card with confusion. It turned out to be a “twenty dollars off any purchase fifty dollars or over” card. By the time I realized this and lifted my head to say thank you the lady was gone.
I remember the day I knew I had become old…
I had been watching the Golden Globes, and I didn’t recognize any of the winners. Of course, I had actually been an old lady before then. I was just in denial. Who wants to be old? I never once heard a girl say that when she grows up, she would like to be all wrinkled and gray.
Well my general disposition had become a bit gloomy since I realized I was “elderly.” I began seeing a doctor regularly for all the aches and pains, which unfortunately come with the aging package. Speaking of side effects of becoming elderly, I’ve realized I have become a great deal lazier. My house is less tidy than it used to be and don’t even get me started about my garden.
Several years back, when I was young, my garden was my pride and joy. I worked tirelessly in that garden, planting, watering, and pruning. I made sure the patch of flowers and beautiful plants could be used and enjoyed rather than just being a working place. I set up a comfortable little chair in my garden where I would read or occasionally just sit and think. I planted the most beautiful and sweetest smelling flowers. My sister used to plant practical things like vegetables and herbs, but I always preferred the explosions of color and fragrant perfume. My favorite type of flower, though it has cost me a generous amount of money is the orchid. There are many varieties of orchids, but the exotic ones are the best. Their petals are large and gorgeous and they come in basically any color one could desire.
Now I look into my backyard and I see my garden is overgrown. There are weeds growing and winding themselves among my beautiful flowers. I still sit out there to read, and I still think it is the most beautiful garden in the world, so filled with a great blend of colors. In my garden I can think back to the days when I was a young girl. So much has changed since then…
Let me just say, in my day , people were a great deal more respectful. The elderly used to be treated like royalty. Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating just a tad. But at least we were not rude to our elders. People these days don’t seem to know how to hold the door open or help ladies cross the street or even say excuse me. This, of course, ruffled my mood even further. When I took my seat on the bus to go to the grocery store, I was in now mood to deal with any rude behavior. Luckily, I didn’t have to because when I walked onto the bus, a man sitting right in the front stood up immediately and offered me his seat. What a sweet man, he probably doesn’t know he brightened the rest of my day.
Jason [the Businessman]
I had been counting down to the day of my important business conference since October. It had seemed so far away, but before I knew it, the bold lettering blared “DECEMBER EIGHTEENTH” from my calendar. I took a deep breath and embarked on my journey.
Ever since I began my new job as an investment banker, little things I hadn’t noticed before agitated me immensely. People walking slowly in front of me when I was trying to get somewhere, people talking loudly while I was trying to do my work, crying babies, creaky doors, ticking clocks, it all drove me crazy. Couldn’t they see I was busy? That I had more important things to do than listen to them complain? I assumed they could not understand the disturbance they were causing because they all continued to distract me.
If you’re one of the many distractions listed, I know what you’re thinking. I mean, I was once a kid. I was once someone who didn’t show much consideration to those stiff, cranky-looking businessmen who yell and scare small children. Once, on my seventh birthday, I had to go to some sort of meeting with my father because nobody was home to take care of me. Since he knew what a disappointment this was to me, he bought me the newest, coolest remote control car as a birthday present. I could play with it quietly in the hall outside of the meeting, he had said. The excitement of my new toy made me forget my sorrow. It was shiny red and had a blue stripe down the back. The doors really opened and there was a satisfying, pleasant, little vroom vroom noise when I started it up and drove it around. I experimented with different tricks and sharp turns, creating a story in my mind involving an intense cop chase. Suddenly, before I realized what had happened, a pair of long legs in suit pants walked right through my imaginary roads and the car crashed right into him! I was pulled out of my game and my eyes grew wide with fear as I saw the look of anger and annoyance on his face. He gave me a very stern talking to about how children showed no respect and had no consideration for people who had actual work to do. I didn’t play with my car for a week after that, and even later, I was always very careful and my games were short and not very fun. So you see, I understand your view of the businessman situation, but at the time this story occurred, such thoughts were not in mind and I was extremely self-absorbed.
Well, I packed my briefcase as neatly as was manageable, hoping the countless papers wouldn’t shift too much. As was my luck, I didn’t lock the clasp carefully enough. I was hurrying up to the bus stop. I could not miss my bus. Someone bumped into me and my briefcase fell open. My stomach tightened, why was this happening to me? I fell to the floor and started shoving all the papers back into the case. As soon as I fit all the papers in and meticulously snapped the clasp shut, I climbed to my feet and ran to the station. The bus hadn’t arrived yet; God was on my side for this one.
And it’s a good thing He was because while I was waiting, something incredibly fortunate occurred.
A dirty looking dog trotted over to the bus stop. It had matted fur and looked like it had gone several days without food. It had no collar in sight and looked particularly mangy, so I decided to keep my distance. I guess that wasn’t my decision to make though, because the dog padded right over to me and dropped something it was holding in its mouth. Who would’ve guessed, it was my wallet! I wouldn’t even have been able to pay for the bus had that generous dog not been there.
And if you’re curious, the conference went really well; I think I might be promoted soon!
Smudge [the Dog]
It was almost that time of year again. Lights were already going up. People were running to stores everywhere I looked and leaving with arms full of shopping bags. I wait every year for this day. The day when humans buy too much food and throw most of it away. They don’t seem to realize the delicacies they give up. On the other hand, us dumpster scavenging animals feast after this day of lights. Juicy chicken and turkey, every kind of meat you can imagine, waiting for a second chance to be eaten.
Anyway, during the rest of the year, I search the streets for any scrap of food I can find. Sometimes if I’m lucky, someone is nice enough to give me fresh food. Other times, I’m not so fortunate. Like this one time, I found a piece of chicken with almost all the meat left on. I was about to gobble it up when an unpleasant odor reached my nose that was all too familiar. It was Spike, the big, aggressive pit bull. He had seen my amazing find and decided he wanted the chicken, too. Usually, I would have enough sense to let him have it and wait for my next find. But I wasn’t thinking straight because I was so hungry and the chicken smelled so good… So Spike bit me and scratched me up pretty bad. I still have some scars.
Anyway, it was a few days before the Day of Lights and I was extra jumpy with anticipation. I was having a pretty normal day. I woke up next to the dumpster, sniffed around for food or company, and decided to stretch my legs. Walking helped me forget my troubles. I don’t remember much about that walk except that there was an unusually tricky squirrel. Well I was so involved in chasing that squirrel that I found myself right on the stoop of the most infamous dog swatter in the area. What made things worse was at that moment, the old man opened the door. I was frozen with terror.
To my surprise, he looked down, smiled and disappeared back into his house. He soon returned with a plateful of delicious food. My nose caught a whiff of the most delectable aroma I’d smelled in a long time. I was in shock, a minute passed before I started eating. I savored every juicy bite.
December 17th started off exactly the same as every other day in the past decade. Every day just seemed to blur into the next. I would wake up at nine in the morning, drink a mug of black coffee, and read the paper. I mean to say, I skimmed the paper, except the sports section. That part, I read. Sports were the only thing I really paid attention to anymore, my connection to the outside world. I used to spend my days sitting around the house reading old books and feeling angry at the world for reducing me to this. I probably wouldn’t have even known the date except that December 17th is my birthday.
I guess you could say I was a pretty lonely man. I had no family besides my only son who moved away. He never called or visited, and I never got to see my two grandchildren. My wife died ten years ago, which is why my house was cluttered. She used to keep everything so neat, which was a real accomplishment because I am an extremely messy person. I retired shortly after she died and since then I didn’t really have anything to do. There was really no sense of purpose in my life; nobody would miss me when I was gone.
I was consumed by these thoughts and became horribly irritable. I isolated myself from the community, neglecting to answer my phone and shooing children off my lawn. Even when the dogs came scratching at my door, I would swat at them with a rolled up newspaper. Soon, people seemed to just be afraid of me, which made my isolation even worse.
On my birthday, my wife and I would always sit and watch the sunset together. I don’t remember how this custom began, but it was one of my favorites, so in the afternoon on December 17th, I sat outside on my porch waiting for the sun to set. As I was waiting, one of the kids that passed my house every day saw me. I expected him to shift his gaze and hurry away from my house. Instead, he asked me if I had ever played softball.
I told him that I had, that I had been the star of my team. He seemed interested, which encouraged me to talk more. He listened intently and when I was done, he asked me if I wanted to have a catch with him. He showed me the softball he clutched in his hand. I agreed to play, and I’m so happy I did. We played for a long time, until the first stars were starting to appear. Before he left to get home to his family, he promised he’d be back to play again.
I used to watch the other kids playing softball in that park down the street from school. I always wanted to play with them, but I was small and the other kids made fun of me because my clothes were dirty and ripped. My family doesn’t have much money. I try not to be sad because mom tries her best to give me and my sisters everything we need. She works really late, but we usually don’t have enough food, so we eat at a soup kitchen. I’m embarrassed to eat there, but I don’t show it because I don’t want mom to feel bad.
The day that my story takes place was a long day at school. At the beginning of class, I looked up to the top right corner of the board. December 17th. Eight days till Christmas. I was looking forward to it this year because I saved enough money doing odd jobs for the neighbors to buy my family decent gifts. I bought Barbies for my sisters and a soft bathrobe for my mother, which I knew would make her feel elegant and comfortable.
That day, during lunch, I got beat up by the bigger kids. I decided to punch one of them back and to my surprise, he started to cry! This seemed highly unusual until I realized the principal was standing right behind me and had seen me punch him. I got a week full of detention because of that.
After school, I hurried to the soup kitchen because the bigger kids had stolen my lunch and I wanted to eat something before I got home. When I sat down to eat, a nice girl who sometimes volunteers at the soup kitchen sat down with me and started to talk to me. She doesn’t judge me because I’m poor. She’s not embarrassed to eat with me. Her name is Anna, and she’s my only friend. That day, she had a special surprise for me. She knew how much I wanted to play softball and that the other kids wouldn’t let me play with them. When I was just about done eating, she handed me a softball and said, “I was going to wait until Christmas to give this to you, but I figured the sooner I give it to you, the sooner you can play with it and forget about those other boys. Find someone else who will play with you, someone who won’t steal your lunch.”
So that’s exactly what I did. I asked that lonely old man to play catch with me on my way home. Whenever I saw him, he was always angry and kept to himself. I could see he was very lonely and had just given up on life. I knew how he felt because I sometimes felt the same way. So I asked him to play catch and I listened to his stories about his old softball team. He was actually really good, and I soaked in the tips he gave me on how to become a better player and how to throw faster and harder. When it got dark, I realized my family was probably worried about me, so I said I had to go, but I promised him we’d play again, I was looking forward to another afternoon just like that one.
Thus one chain of good deeds was formed. You see, when a good deed happens upon you, you are also given a responsibility. You must pass on that good deed and not waste it. Because good deeds don’t vanish like snowflakes on a Christmas day. They have a purpose -- to inspire kindness in people and spread joy.
And so, when Anna volunteered at the local soup kitchen and befriended a small boy with a strong will, she triggered a sequence of quiet miracles that changed the people involved and linked them together. Jordan accepted his responsibility with enthusiasm and gave Oscar, the lonely old man, something to look forward to. Oscar gave a plate of food to the hungry dog, Smudge, who returned Jason’s wallet to him. He, in turn, gave up his seat on the bus to Betty. She decided on the fateful night of December 18th to give the twenty-dollar gift card to Anna, who never knew that her good deed had come home to her.
Every person has the opportunity to join the chain. Grasp the link when it comes your way, don’t let it fall, and who knows, maybe the good deed will come right back to you…