“Bad things happen to good people.” “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.”
What do all these have in common? A positive outlook and a belief that we can make things better. I have a dear friend who turns the phrase, “Well, she can just get happy in the same pants she got mad in.” Why does she have to get happy in her pants? I want to know. Another dear friend says, “You have to pull your own happiness wagon.” Some days, we may not feel we have enough happiness to fill a thimble, much less a wagon, but I am a firm believer in this line of thinking. When faced with some tough medical news, a difficult work situation or even a devastating turn in a relationship, I believe we have a choice. We can wallow in our own stew or we can step out of it and walk towards better stew.
Before I became an elementary school principal, I was a guidance counselor. I would go in all the classrooms and teach about drug education (you know you have reached a pinnacle of professionalism when a 2nd grader, upon seeing you, yells at her parents in Walmart, “Look! There’s the drug lady.” Wowee, let me explain.) and about character education. The issue that seemed most needed was teaching about self-responsibility. I woke up one night with a poem in my head. I wrote it down and began teaching it to all students, Kinder through 5th grade, the very next day.
“I always have a choice,
No matter what I do.
I make the choice and I can’t blame you.”
It came loaded with its own hand motions and we would say it as a mantra at assemblies, well past the days when I became the principal. We would say it in our loudest voice, we would say it in a tiny mouse voice (“Channel your own inner Minnie Mouse”, I would advise), we would say it like a big fat whale in the deep blue sea.
What was the point? Begin believing you have some control over your actions, thoughts and feelings. Pull your own happiness wagon or get happy in your pants. Whatever you want to call it----the choice is yours!
Particularly in public schools these days, some of the things going on seem to be out of our control. Mandates don’t always seem too popular, legislators make decisions about the inner workings of school despite the fact that many of them have not seen the inside of a classroom since they graduated themselves, financial burdens seem to beat schools down. Faced with these challenges, why wouldn’t we just kick and scream and throw tantrums and say “No, no, no”? Maybe we could take a lesson from Helen Keller, a girl who was faced with a couple of challenges herself. One of my very favorite Helen Keller quotes is “So much has been given to me, I have to time to ponder over that which has been denied.” What the what? This is a girl who, at two years old, fell ill and was, for the remainder of her life, deaf, blind, and mute. And she said what??
Perhaps we can take a note from Helen Keller and all those people in our lives who are always able to find the good in every situation, not in a Pollyanna way or an ostrich sticking their head in the sand, but in the way that says, “Just for today, I choose happiness. Why? Because I like it better than the alternative.” And, for your viewing pleasure, check out this example of MAKING HAPPINESS HAPPEN.