When I first started this blog I called it “HEARTSTORM” because I knew many of the subjects I would end up writing about would be the things that create chaos in our everyday lives. They may not be earth-shaking events, but they are circumstances that disrupt the routine of our lives, produce pain, create confusion, and rob us of peace. The combined effect of these little annoyances, or major upheavals, is like walking through a thunderstorm – we often end up drenched in stress, running for cover, scared by the noise, and longing for calm. We’ve all been there; no one is immune from the storms of life.

    However, today I wanted to write about the power of sharing a little happiness!  In the midst of the murky outlook of today and the gloomy forecast for the future, we can do a lot to lift our own spirits and the spirits of those around us by sharing the joys in our everyday experience and simple acts of kindness.  I got a lesson in that myself again this week. It came from an unexpected source.

     So much of what we see on the news, email or on social media today is focused on the negative.  Most of it is about what someone doesn’t like about a particular candidate or issue, stories of civil unrest or police brutality, the latest sad news about crime in our community, the stark realities of our economy and our own financial instability, the pictures of another natural disaster or war, gossip surrounding the latest celebrity breakup, or the depressing news about the current pandemic.  It’s enough to make even the most positive person want to find a cave to crawl in and hide from the world.

      Yet, amazingly enough, it doesn’t take much to lighten the mood and offer a glimmer of hope to those around you living in the midst of this bleak season.  Though not purposely, I found that out this week when I posted a couple of things on my Facebook page that evidently seemed to lift the spirits of those who follow me. They were simple photographs that garnered a very positive reaction across the board.  I didn’t put a lot of forethought into that process dictated by some social media strategy planned well in advance.  Rather, these photos just represented things I personally like…..and if I liked them I thought some others might like them too!  I’d love to think it brought a few smiles to their faces. 

     One of the posts I shared this week was a photo of a mommy otter holding up her new baby.  The reaction was overwhelmingly positive.  Sometimes you just need to see something cute in the midst of all the ugliness in our world.  I dare anyone to frown and find a negative comment about a photo like that. When God created the myriad of species around us I think He purposely gave us a few adorable creatures like the otter to help us relax and take ourselves less seriously.  My grandson likes a show called “TOO CUTE” that follows the lives of newborn puppies and kittens, and I’ve recently discovered a show called “THE SECRETS OF THE ZOO” that features all the behind the scenes adventures of the Zookeepers with the animals they care for on a daily basis.  Seeing animals on these shows, or in photos like the one of the otter, remind me that world is a lot bigger than my little routine here in Oregon.  Yes, life can get difficult, and I’ve certainly experienced my share of that this year, but one glance at a baby otter and the hardness of my heart tends to melt away just a little and I remember God’s still in charge.

      Just yesterday I shared photos of my own front yard.  You have to understand, I pretty much have a “brown thumb”.  I can cut the grass and rake the leaves, but I haven’t had much success in planting a garden or growing flowers……..with one exception.  Each year I plant about 15 large boxes with Impatiens.  I plant these multi-colored flowers that love the shade in early May around my covered porch and along the walkway under my large Red Oak.  I have no idea what I’m supposed to do, but I use MIRACLE GROW potting soil and I water them frequently!   Incredibly, that works, much to my surprise! These impatiens bloom from early May until mid-November when the weather turns cold OR they get smothered by the falling leaves of the massive oak tree in my front yard.  For 7 months I get to enjoy them and feel like I did something right!  Just seeing them as I pull into my driveway makes me smile.

     That’s why I decided to share photos of them last night!  There’s been so much negative stuff going on in the world around us that I wanted to share something that made me smile to see if it would resonate with anyone else.  The response has actually been quite surprising.  Who would have thought photos of flowers would be enough to lift a few spirits from people I know literally around the world?   I certainly can’t take credit for the beauty of the flowers…..that’s God’s realm.  But I can share that beauty with others and bring a little happiness into their lives. 

     As I thought about that this afternoon I was prompted to pass along that message on my blog.  It does not take much for us to share a little happiness in our own realm.  Perhaps it’s just a story, a poem, a memory, a scripture verse, a small gift or even a photo of a baby otter or flowers in your yard.  Whatever it may be, I think it would be good for all of us to be focused more on sharing those things than our views about the latest political debate, our feelings on social justice issues, a new puzzle or brain game,  or what we had for dinner last night.  People all around us are inundated with the issues of everyday life, much of which is negative and creates more than enough stress.  Sharing something that makes people smile doesn’t change their reality, but it gives them a much needed break, no matter how short. 

     One of the things I like most about being a Christian is that it is a faith that is built on the concept of hope.  Yes, mankind has gone astray and done almost everything conceivable to run away from God and complicate our own lives.  But somehow God has been patient, loving and kind, graciously extending to us forgiveness for our sin and rebellion.  With that comes meaning and purpose in this life and the promise of eternity when this life is over.  That’s cause for hope no matter how bleak the situation may be around us.  Whatever we’ve done to mess things up, God will help us renew, restore, and rebuild our lives, both personally and corporately. 

     I think the time has come for us all to redouble our efforts to be positive people.  It’s become too easy to complain about, find fault, and disagree with others.  In focusing on all that is wrong in the world around us, we miss so much of what is right.  In seeing the ugliness, we miss the beauty.  In sharing our disappointment with how things are going, we miss the chance to share our joy in the little things happening all around us.  It seems to me that people would rather hear about the things that make you smile or laugh than the things that frustrate you or make you angry.  Sharing happiness is a choice we can, and should, make every day.

     I’m not “Mr. Sunshine” all the time.  I know some people who are……and I love to be around them.  I know they probably have their bad days too, but it rarely shows.  I think that’s because they have made the decision to focus on the positives and share a little joy along the way with the others they interact with throughout their day. I want to be more like that!!   I had a conversation with a guy like that this week….a guy who is older than I am and gone through more than I’ve gone through.  When I hung up the phone I sat a bit stunned at my desk wondering how I could better emulate a man like that. 

     I don’t know what I’ll share next on Facebook.  I often share religious quotes or memes that I think are inspirational.  But I don’t think any of them will make me feel like I made more people smile than the picture of the otter mommy or the flowers in my front yard this week.  I think there is something to be said for that.  May we all learn to share a little more happiness with those around us every day!

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