I was telling a friend of mine this story and she was so powerfully affected by it, that she wanted to know if I had written about it on my blog. I hadn’t shared it because it’s not a horse story.
But she’s right, it HAS an application to horses that we will talk about on another day. So I decided to share this simple story about my gift to my grand daughter on her birthday.
I had noticed quite a while back, that I didn’t remember very many gifts that I had been given in my life – that I mostly remembered the experiences and that kind of tied in around the same time that I was noticing that the amount of gifts my grand daughter received on birthday and Christmas from such a big extended family, was overwhelming.
She couldn’t have told you what gifts she got, there was so many of them and without prompting she certainly wouldn’t have remembered who they came from. So by the time this story happened, we had already changed our gifts from “things” to experiences. We had already done the wonderful free range open zoo at Werribbee, the stunning horse show Cavalia, the live How to Train a Dragon show and things like it and by this birthday I’m talking about, I was running out of ideas.
Then along came Deepak Chopra with his Happiness meditation series with Oprah Winfrey – thank you to the person who put me onto them, it was very special and very powerful for more than me, as you’ll see. You can Google Deepak Chopra’s website, he often has a free series going and they are all special.
Anyway I decided that the greatest gift I could give her right now, that would last for the rest of her life, was to teach her what real happiness was.
Man, I am going to cry while I am writing this, I can tell! 🙂
So, the afternoon of her ninth birthday, I picked her up from school and we went out for a special afternoon tea, just us.
And I asked her what would make her happy, what would bring her happiness that her Grandad and I could give her for birthday? We talked about how whatever ideas she came up with for this birthday present, it would be our job to do our best to either give that to her or create an opportunity for whatever she wanted to happen or teach her how to get it to happen.
We talked about how the happiness that a toy would bring could be quite short term, that at my age I couldn’t even remember very many toys that I was given. We explored the idea of how making others happy can bring us lasting happiness.
One by one. this precious, precious girl started to make her very considered birthday wishes.
She wanted to spend more time with her older brother who lived away from home. She wanted a joke book that would make her Daddy laugh (he tends on the grumpy side). She wanted a vegetable garden that she could eat things out of, she wanted a particular flower in her garden (and that reminds me, I haven’t got around to that one yet, I must find one.) And last but not least, she wanted her best friend to be not afraid of food. (Her best friend only eats a few things and I hadn’t thought of it like that, but I expect my girl is right and there is probably a fear in there somewhere.)
We talked about how Grandad and I could help her with those things. She herself did a birthday card that she gave her best friend (even though it was her own birthday) giving the other girl the gift of a healing session with me to solve the food thing. I found a Men’s Shed joke book on my travels that had the right style of jokes in it that made her Daddy laugh. Her mother made extra effort above what she was already doing, knowing that she wanted more time with her brother. We planted a mini garden with sweet snap sugar peas and baby tomatoes and a couple of strawberry plants.
You see… the advertising people would have us think that happiness comes from buying that new gadget, driving that car, living on that particular block of land – even things like buying that brand of fabric softener (you know, the one with the mother and baby and the cuddly towels). But none of these things bring real Happiness – they’re temporary and sometimes they even bring their own stresses if we haven’t paid for them yet.
Real happiness comes from understanding how life works, from understanding our connection to everything and everybody else in the world and like my girl discovered, from making others happy.
And the more we do that, the more it makes the world a better place and the more happiness starts flowing around and around.
Something very special happened that day of my granddaughter’s birthday that still brings a tear of gratitude in me. My precious girl started to think about real happiness and how she could have real happiness and about what would bring her real happiness.
And she nailed it. And yes, bless her heart, I cried writing this story. Even doing a little edit years later for the 2018 Happiness program, I STILL cried writing it. 🙂
2021: There’s a book coming called Practical Happiness for Animal Lovers. Sign up for the blog (up towards the top of the page on the right hand side) and you’ll get an email when it hits the ground. 🙂