I am, I suppose, a “morning person.” I hate it, but what can you do? Even when I try, I cannot sleep late. And this morning I was up before dawn, which at this time of year isn’t until about seven o’clock anyway. So this morning it was well before dawn. And when I wake up, I cannot just stay in bed, I have to get up.
Most mornings I’m just up and out, with no breakfast to speak of but maybe a cup of coffee on the fly. Sundays are different. On Sunday I have this ritual. I go out and get the paper. We don’t get the New York Times here, so I have to make do with its southern equivalent, the Pensacola News Journal or as we call it here, “the mullet wrapper.” Then I come home and fix myself a nice big breakfast, over which I’ll linger with the paper until blasted off my ass by whatever other pressing events of the day I cannot defer any longer. Sometimes I can drag Sunday “breakfast” out until well after noon.
It’s finally fall here in the Florida Panhandle. Mornings are crisp and cool. I’m not a fan of cold weather, but even I have to admit that it’s pleasant. And it was wonderful being out so early on what was shaping up to be a magnificently beautiful day.
I’d forgotten to get eggs on my last trip to the grocery store, so I did a quick run by McDonalds after getting the paper. I know, I know…you don’t have to tell me. But I really don’t eat fast-food that often. I can splurge on Sunday.
I’m always dismayed when I do go into fast-food “restaurants.” It seems as if we’re becoming a rude society full of impatient, intolerant, grumpy people. The cashiers at these places don’t even say “Good morning,” anymore, and the customer just starts off by blurting out his order, as if speaking to a robot, not a human. My sister Elizabeth said it best: “We don’t just want fast-food – we want instantaneous food!”
When my turn came, the girl behind the counter barely looked up from her register and said, “What would you like?”
“Well, a greeting, to start off with,” I said in mock-seriousness. I am a stickler for customer service. There was an awkward pause as the look on her face became cross between confusion and nervousness – like, “Uh-oh, who/what am I dealing with now?” Then I smiled at her and chuckled, “Good morning!” in a way that slowed the process down just a bit. Relaxing and realizing what was up, she smiled back and we exchanged pleasantries in a way that seems to be becoming a lost art. When I left, she smiled genuinely at me and gave me a cheerful, “Have a nice day!” There is no doubt about that: I said I would if she would. I left, happy with my Egg McMuffin, and she was left, perhaps only temporarily, in a slightly better mood than before. Maybe.
Now, I know this sounds like the self-serving bullshit of an artificially happy moron. But it’s not. It costs absolutely nothing...zero...zilch…nada...to brighten someone’s day. The tragedy is that so few people seem to even try anymore. Just the opposite, in fact, most people seem bent on getting you in as bad a mood as they are. Bad moods are contagious. Sometimes it's far more easy to put someone in a bad mood than to lift them up.
Life is hard – I know that. We struggle along in our little worlds, dealing with all of the various pressures and tensions and worries, just trying to get through the day ourselves without having a nervous breakdown. It’s hard enough to keep a happy thought, much less convey one to others.
But life is not hard for me now that I’ve discovered The Secret. Oh, life has been hard in the past, but never will be again. I will never let it be. See, that is The Secret. Being happy is a choice. When you wake up each day you have a choice. You can either be happy or unhappy. You can let life get you down – or not. You can be so self-absorbed in your own troubles and travails that you forget that everyone else out there is going through the same thing. Or… Or you can realize that we’re all in this together…that for society to succeed (and thrive) we must all work together for the common good, even when things are not going great for you, personally.
I'm not saying that you should be a Pollyanna, or be fake about it or just pretend things are going great when they're not. Certainly, not everyone's life is always rosy. It's more about our reaction to circumstances and how that reaction is up to us.
Perhaps the most profound thing I’ve ever read in my whole life were four simple words written by Rick Warren, Pastor of the Saddleback Church (and moderator of the first 2008 presidential “debate”). The words open the first chapter of his book, “The Purpose Driven Life.”
It’s not about you.
What? My life isn’t about me? Nope. I’ve come to realize that it’s not. Neither is yours. I know so many people for whom, upon hearing virtually anything, their first automatic thought is, “How does this affect me?” But we must get through that – put aside our ego and ask ourselves, “How does this affect you?” That’s the tough part. Does it work for me 100% of the time? Of course not, I am human after all. But I try.
This post sure went astray. I was going to write about a lot of things: Flying nervous, first-time passengers, which I did yesterday; Flying at night, which I also had to do yesterday (and which I’ve come to dislike intensely); Politics; Joe the (Fake) Plumber…but driving to McDonalds this morning changed all that.
I read the paper quickly – not a lot of news today – and set the crossword puzzles aside (I’ll do ‘em later) to sit down at the computer (still the old laptop but it may get replaced today) to write. The morning is nearly gone. Time’s a-wasting and it’s too beautiful a day to squander. So I’m going out, and hope you do/did the same. Enjoy this day…enjoy every day, make the best of it, treat it like a gift. And if, in your comings and goings today – or any day - you encounter other people, even if it’s just a convenience store clerk, try to make them smile. It won’t even cost you one dime of your hard-earned money, and it’s worth thousands of times more.
Have a nice day!