Some reports will suggest that children laugh 300-400 times per day, while adults laugh only 17-18 times per day. Wow, that is a sad number for us adults. What is the difference? Sure, children don’t have to pay the mortgage, worry about being places on time, with the right stuff, or deal with the stresses and struggles of adulthood. But, they do navigate a complex world without the help of adult-developed tools to help make their way. The key, I believe, is that children find joy. They gravitate to activities, people, work, and situations that help them feel good about themselves, thus laughing, thus bringing joy. Adults can take a lesson from this behavior, especially with the upcoming holidays, which bring as much stress and anxiety as they do joy. Unless we approach them differently.
So, what brings you joy? A surprising way to feel more joy is to share; share of yourself, your things, and your time. The old adage is that it is better to give than to receive and there is some truth to this. For example:
My six children will at times challenge me to one of their favorite games. Enter their world of thought and answer the gross and grotesque questions of “Would You Rather?” Would you rather eat an ounce of ants or an ounce of ladybugs? Really? Who comes up with these questions?? For the sake of our conversation regarding joy, would you rather have, say $25 or the undivided attention and time of someone you love for one hour? What if this was expanded to someone you’ve lost. I think of my grandfather who recently passed. Heck, I’d rather sit and exchange stories with him for an hour than receive $250, $2,500, or $25,000. I just can’t get that time back. He brought me joy, so there is value associated with things other than the tangible.
I think a lot of this has to do with mindset. Can you, as a human being, separate yourself from the unavoidable bad things that happen in a day? Can you let them go? Can you think more about the positive happenings, the smiles, interactions, laughter that occurred? Both the good and the bad will occur in life; it’s what we focus on that will help determine our outlook, our persona, and indirectly, how much joy we feel.
In our classrooms, I see so much giving. Our staff offers knowledge, instruction, and most importantly… themselves to our students. I think what makes the difference in our schools is that we take such great joy in the relationships we have built with our students. Our learners come to school in a place where they are known. It’s an exchange in that they also give, sometimes in overtly, sometimes subtle ways; but our people and the students we serve have found a recipe for an increased amount of joy. It comes through the gift of service.
Happy Thanksgiving to our families. It’s an honor to serve you and we hope your family time is cherished.
Dr. Paul McDermott,