I was 16 years old. Filled with enough teenage drama to feel like nobody else in the world would ever understand what I was going through. You know the feeling, I’m quite confident that most, if not all of you, have experienced it.
I was raised within a faith filled environment and found myself sitting in church quite often. I would go to church almost daily when time allowed. I don’t exactly know why I went or what I did there but, on many occasions, I would find myself sitting by myself in the quiet of the afternoon when nobody was around.
I was exiting the church one afternoon when I was met by a retired pastor. He was French and spoke with a deep accent. He asked how I was doing as he had seen me sitting in church by myself for quite a while. I replied that I was doing well, which was my standard reply when asked the question by an adult. No grown up was really interested in what I had to say, or so I thought.
He didn’t press for more information but started to share a thought with me. He asked if I would try a technique if he would recommend one. He was well liked in the community and had been the pastor for over 40 years. I knew of him but did not know him personally. He for sure didn’t know me. I was a little taken aback when he asked the question but remained polite and agreed to engage.
He said, “Every night, as you lie on your pillow, I want you to take a few minutes and reflect on any good moments you experienced during that day. It could be a funny joke you heard, running into an old friend, somebody sharing a happy memory with you, receiving a gift from someone, giving somebody else a gift, essentially any good news or event for that day, that made you smile, or feel loved. I want you to create a list of 10 moments each day. Can you do that?” I thought it was corny as he said it but I nodded in compliance. He saw through me instantly and said, “I know you think it’s cheesy but would you give it a try?” I promised I would at least try.
It would turn out to be one of the toughest exercises I would attempt. 16-year olds prefer to be bitter and angry at the world. It was also a challenge to replay moments of each day to identify the moments that would be considered “Happy”. 10 Moments? Where was there 10 Happy Moments to count? I was a less privileged minority kid growing up with not much feeling of hope. But still I tried. It took a few days before I could find 10 Happy Moments in my day. It’s not that there weren’t many happy moments. I was just not skilled in looking for them as a reflection. A few weeks into it, I was hooked. I went to bed happy each night and felt encouraged for more goodness to come the next day. My demeanor was changing each day and I was actually beginning to like myself for the first time.
Here’s a thought, You Can’t be Grateful and Unhappy at the Same Time!
As I looked run into this pastor again so I could share my progress with him, I learnt that he had passed away a few weeks after his chance meeting with me. He was dealing with advanced cancer during the time he stopped to speak with me. He didn’t share any of that but just spoke of encouragement and hope that day we met. What a testimony of a strategy that works. He lived each day retiring with 10 Happy Thoughts that blessed him each day. I am grateful for the encounter. He is often on my list of 10 Happy Moments that I still draw from like it happened today.
I must admit that I haven’t always performed this exercise every night. Mostly, I forget when I have great days or fun and love-filled days. However, there are many days mixed in with those that are less than inspiring. Days when I don’t feel as loved, or as fortunate or as rewarded. Days when I didn’t love as hard as I should have, been as kind to others as I could have and perhaps less than generous. It is those days, that I dig deep to run through this exercise. It is often a struggle. I don’t always want to feel “happy” or so I thought. I sometimes want to feel sorry for myself. Who else would feel sorry for me, if not I? I often have to dig really deep so as to not be the Grand Marshall to my own pity party. I don’t really know why the human soul periodically seeks sadness but I guess it happens to most people from what I have learnt.
I have experienced great heartbreaks, huge failures and massive disappointments in my life. I’m fairly sure that most people can relate to something similar. I am also not suggesting that this was an easy exercise to overcome. I just know that without the gift of this challenge by the pastor who stopped me many years ago, I wouldn’t have survived as well as I did and I wouldn’t have been able to help the people who were counting on me along the way to help them get through life.
I have been blessed and fortunate to have been able to positively affect many people’s lives. Some I get to help emotionally, others I get to help financially. Either way, you can’t be of service to others if you’re a wreck yourself. I like that there’s an opportunity presented to me each day to be grateful so I can battle adversity.
Here’s the challenge for you;
- Make a decision that we could all use some help along the way.
- Recognize that there will be Unhappy Days
- Accept the things you cannot Change and have Courage to change the things you Can
- Love Others Recklessly
- Love Yourself Unconditionally
I invite you to join me everyday in this exercise. You can reach out to me at www.ButchChelliah.com if you need an exercise partner.
I have learnt that even on the darkest days, the loneliest of times and the scariest of moments, there are 10 Happy Moments that we can draw from and that happens every day.