By Sister Lauretta
“Spread love everywhere you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier.” This is a beautiful quote of Mother Teresa. Let’s unpack it and see how we can carry out her advice. We know that happiness in this world is a relative term, one that changes for the same person every minute when something else changes in his or her life. When viewed objectively we see that happiness actually can and does change from situation to situation. But that’s not the happiness Mother Teresa is talking about!
The happiness she is referring to lives in our heart, not in our situation, possessions or any other such area. She is telling us that real happiness is when you help others and make them happy. She elaborates further on this quotation by inviting us to be the “…living expression of God’s kindness– kindness shown in our face, kindness in our eyes, kindness is our smile and kindness in our warm greeting.” She is quoted as saying, “Happiness is the small, nameless moments you spend smiling with someone who needs it.” St. Francis of Assisi, in his peace prayer, reminds us “…that it is in giving that we receive.” To him, real happiness is reciprocal. The more we give, the more we receive. Winston Churchill reinforces the idea of giving happiness when he says, “We make a living by what we get; we make a life by what we give.” We might add that it is not how much we give, but how much love we put into the giving. Bishop Barron tells us that happiness emanates from love and it results in desiring the other’s good, not for our own sake, but solely for the other. He reminds us that we are created to mold one another’s dreams, hold each other’s fragile hopes in our hands and touch each other’s heart.
Do we actually have the ability to make someone’s life happier? Do we have the power to give to others what we want ourselves? Can we make someone happier today? Yes, we have the ability to make another person happier, feel better. If we check out how supportive we are, how enjoyable we are to be with, how much we show that we care while that person is in our presence we will know if we are giving happiness to others.
At a large gathering the leader gave a balloon to each person present, telling them to write their name on it and then drop it in a large basket. He took the basket into another room and invited the people to go into that room and find the balloon with their name on it. Since they had only 5 minutes, they naturally rushed in, pushing and shoving each other, but they couldn’t find their balloon in their rush. Then they were instructed to pick out any balloon and give it to the person whose name was on it and each person received his or her balloon quickly. This is how it is with happiness. All our lives are spent searching for happiness, yet our happiness depends on giving to others.
To get a handle on giving happiness, consider who are the people we, ourselves, would want to encounter, who would make us leave happier. Certainly it’s not the energy zapper, the angry, the selfish, the person who doesn’t care or take the time to listen. Rather, it’s the calm, positive person, the listener, the kind and generous person and the empathetic. They are the people who make us feel better after encountering them, who lift our spirits and remind us of God’s love and presence. These are the people we want to emulate.
Take the example of Jesus. He walked with his people in their sorrow, listened to their stories, loved them, showed them kindness and brought them to a new place in dealing with their world. That’s what Mother Teresa is telling us. Her advice is an invitation to see life with a different perspective, an invitation to open our hearts and realize that we can be agents of God’s grace wherever we are by acting with generosity and goodness, by being sensitive to the cry of the needy, caring about everyone who comes to us, providing an understanding that the world is bigger than “me” and my own needs.
Let us take to heart Mother Teresa’s admonition and be the living experience of God’s love in this world. Make everyone happier because they met you!