I teach economics at UNLV three times per week. Last Monday, at the beginning of class, I cheerfully asked my students how their weekend had been. One young man said that his weekend had not been so good. He had his wisdom teeth removed. The young man then proceeded to ask me why I always seemed to be so cheerful.
His question reminded me of something I'd read somewhere before: "Every morning when you get up, you have a choice about how you want to approach life that day," I said. "I choose to be cheerful."
"Let me give you an example," I continued, addressing all sixty students in the class. "In addition to teaching here at UNLV, I also teach out at the community college in Henderson, 17 miles down the freeway from where I live. One day a few weeks ago I drove those 17 miles to Henderson. I exited the freeway and turned onto College Drive. I only had to drive another quarter mile down the road to the college. But just then my car died. I tried to start it again, but the engine wouldn't turn over. So I put my flashers on, grabbed my books, and marched down the road to the college."
"As soon as I got there I called AAA and arranged for a tow truck to meet me at my car after class. The secretary in the Provost's office asked me what has happened. 'This is my lucky day,' I replied, smiling."
" 'Your car breaks down and today is your lucky day?' She was puzzled. 'What do you mean?'"
" 'I live 17 miles from here.' I replied. 'My car could have broken down anywhere along the freeway. It didn't. Instead, it broke down in the perfect place: off the freeway, within walking distance of here. I'm still able to teach my class, and I've been able to arrange for the tow truck to meet me after class. If my car was meant to break down today, it couldn't have been arranged in a more convenient fashion.'"
"The secretary's eyes opened wide, and then she smiled. I smiled back and headed for class." So ended my story.
I scanned the sixty faces in my economics class at UNLV. Despite the early hour, no one seemed to be asleep. Somehow, my story had touched them. Or maybe it wasn't the story at all. In fact, it had all started with a student's observation that I was cheerful.
Once upon a time, a man punished his 5-year-old daughter for using up the family's only roll of expensive gold wrapping paper. Money was tight, and he became even more upset when on Christmas Eve, he saw that the child had pasted the gold paper so as to decorate a shoebox to put under the Christmas tree.
Nevertheless, the next morning the little girl, filled with excitement, brought the gift box to her father and said, "This is for you, Daddy!"
As he opened the box, the father was embarrassed by his earlier overreaction.
But when he opened it, he found it was empty and again his anger flared. "Don't you know, young lady, " he said harshly, "when you give someone a present there's supposed to be something inside the package!"
The little girl looked up at him with tears rolling from her eyes and said: "Daddy, it's not empty. I blew kisses into it until it was all full."
The father was crushed. He fell on his knees and put his arms around his precious little girl. He begged her to forgive him for his unnecessary anger.
An accident took the life of the child only a short time later. It is told that the father kept that little gold box by his bed for all the years of his life. Whenever he was discouraged or faced difficult problems he would open the box, take out an imaginary kiss, and remember the love of this beautiful child who had put it there.
In a very real sense, each of us as human beings have been given an invisible golden box filled with unconditional love and kisses from our children, family, friends and God.
There is no more precious possession anyone could hold.
I live in Hollywood. You may think people in such a glamorous, fun-filled place are happier than others. If so, you have some mistaken ideas about the nature of happiness.
Many intelligent people still equate happiness with fun. The truth is that fun and happiness have little or nothing in common. Fun is what we experience during an act. Happiness is what we experience after an act. It is a deeper, more abiding emotion.
Going to an amusement park or ball game, watching a movie or television, are fun activities that help us relax, temporarily forget our problems and maybe even laugh. But they do not bring happiness, because their positive effects end when the fun ends.
I have often thought that if Hollywood stars have a role to play, it is to teach us that happiness has nothing to do with fun. These rich, beautiful inpiduals have constant access to glamorous parties, fancy cars, expensive homes, everything that spells "happiness".
But in memoir after memoir, celebrities reveal the unhappiness hidden beneath all their fun: depression, alcoholism, drug addiction, broken marriages, troubled children, profound loneliness.
The way people cling to the belief that a fun-filled, pain-free life equates happiness actually diminishes their chances of ever attaining real happiness. If fun and pleasure are equated with happiness, then pain must be equated with unhappiness. But, in fact, the opposite is true: More times than not, things that lead to happiness involve some pain.
As a result, many people avoid the very endeavors that are the source of true happiness. They fear the pain inevitably brought by such things as marriage, raising children, professional achievement, religious commitment, civic or charitable work, and self-improvement.
Two men, both seriously ill, occupied the same hospital room. One man was allowed to sit up in his bed for an hour each afternoon to help drain the fluid from his lungs. His bed was next to the room‘s only window. The other man had to spend all his time flat on his back. The men talked for hours on end.
They spoke of their wives and families, their homes, their jobs, their involvement in the military service, where they had been on vacation. And every afternoon when the man in the bed by the window could sit up, he would pass the time by describing to his roommate all the things he could see outside the window. The man in the other bed began to live for those one-hour periods where his world would be broadened and enlivened by all the activity and color of the world outside.
The window overlooked a park with a lovely lake. Ducks and swans played on the water while children sailed their model boats. Young lovers walked arm in arm amidst flowers of every color of the rainbow. Grand old trees graced the landscape, and a fine view of the city skyline could be seen in the distance. As the man by the window described all this in exquisite detail, the man on the other side of the room would close his eyes and imagine the picturesque scene.
One warm afternoon the man by the window described a parade passing by. Although the other man couldn‘t hear the band - he could see it in his mind‘s eye as the gentleman by the window portrayed it with descriptive words.
Days and weeks passed. One morning, the day nurse arrived to bring water for their baths only to find the lifeless body of the man by the window, who had died peacefully in his sleep. She was saddened and called the hospital attendants to take the body away.
As soon as it seemed appropriate, the other man asked if he could be moved next to the window. The nurse was happy to make the switch, and after making sure he was comfortable, she left him alone. Slowly and painfully, he propped himself up on one elbow to take his first look at the world outside. Finally, he would have the joy of seeing it for himself. He strained to slowly turn to look out the window beside the bed. It faced a blank wall.
The man asked the nurse what could have compelled his deceased roommate who had described such wonderful things outside this window. The nurse responded that the man was blind and could not even see the wall. She said, "Perhaps he just wanted to encourage you."
A young man was getting ready to graduate from college. For many months he had admired a beautiful sports car in a dealer's showroom, and knowing his father could well afford it, he told him that was all he wanted.
As Graduation Day approached, the young man awaited signs that his father had purchased the car. Finally, on the morning of his graduation, his father called him into his private study. His father told him how proud he was to have such a fine son, and told him how much he loved him. He handed his son a beautiful wrapped gift box. Curious, but somewhat disappointed, the young man opened the box and found a lovely, leather-bound Bible, with the young man's name embossed in gold.
Angrily, he raised his voice to his father and said, "With all your money you give me a Bible?" He then stormed out of the house, leaving the Bible.
Many years passed and the young man was very successful in business. He had a beautiful home and a wonderful family, but realizing his father was very old, he thought perhaps he should go to see him. He had not seen him since that graduation day. Before he could make the arrangements, he received a telegram telling him his father had passed away, and willed all of his possessions to his son. He needed to come home immediately and take care of things.
When he arrived at his father's house, sudden sadness and regret filled his heart. He began to search through his father's important papers and saw the still new Bible, just as he had left it years ago.
With tears, he opened the Bible and began to turn the pages. As he was reading, a car key dropped from the back of the Bible. It had a tag with the dealer's name, the same dealer who had the sports car he had desired. On the tag was the date of his graduation, and the words… "PAID IN FULL".
How many times do we miss blessings because they are not packaged as we expected? I trust you enjoyed this. Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; but remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for. Sometimes we don't realize the good fortune we have or we could have because we expect "the packaging" to be different. What may appear as bad fortune may in fact be the door that is just waiting to be opened.
Once upon a time there was a baby eagle living in a nest perched on a cliff overlooking a beautiful valley with waterfalls and streams, trees and lots of little animals, scurrying about enjoying their lives.
The baby eagle liked the nest. It was the only world he had ever known. It was warm and comfortable, had a great view, and even better, he had all the food and love and attention that a great mother eagle could provide. Many times each day the mother would swoop down from the sky and land in the nest and feed the baby eagle delicious morsels of food. She was like a god to him, he had no idea where she came from or how she worked her magic.
The baby eagle was hungry all the time, but the mother eagle would always come just in time with the food and love and attention he craved. The baby eagle grew strong. His vision grew very sharp. He felt good all the time.
Until one day, the mother stopped coming to the nest.
The baby eagle was hungry. "I'm sure to die," said the baby eagle, all the time.
"Very soon, death is coming," he cried, with tears streaming down his face. Over and over. But there was no one there to hear him.
Then one day the mother eagle appeared at the top of the mountain cliff, with a big bowl of delicious food and she looked down at her baby. The baby looked up at the mother and cried "Why did you abandon me? I'm going to die any minute. How could you do this to me?"
The mother said, "Here is some very tasty and nourishing food, all you have to do is come get it."
"Come get it!" said the baby, with much anger. "How?"
The mother flew away.
The baby cried and cried and cried.
A few days later, "I'm going to end it all," he said. "I give up. It is time for me to die."
He didn't know his mother was nearby. She swooped down to the nest with his last meal.
"Eat this, it's your last meal," she said.
The baby cried, but he ate and whined and whined about what a bad mother she was.
"You're a terrible mother," he said. Then she pushed him out of the nest.
Picked up speed.
Faster and faster.
He screamed. "I'm dying I'm dying," he cried. He picked up more speed.
He looked up at his mother. "How could you do this to me?"
He looked down.
The ground rushed closer, faster and faster. He could visualize his own death so clearly, coming so soon, and cried and whined and complained. "This isn't fair!" he screamed.
Something strange happens.
The air caught behind his arms and they snapped away from his body, with a feeling unlike anything he had ever experienced. He looked down and saw the sky. He wasn't moving towards the ground anymore, his eyes were pointed up at the sun.
"Huh?" he said. "What is going on here!"
"You're flying," his mother said.
"This is fun!" laughed the baby eagle, as he soared and ped and swooped.
"Yes it is!" said the mother.