Taking the happiness challenge

Published 12:00 am Sunday, September 14, 2014

The ice bucket challenge seems to be subsiding, and replacing it in my Facebook feed is the “happiness challenge,” in which people give brief daily updates on what’s making them happy, whether it’s getting to bed early or depositing a child at college without falling apart. Reading these updates reminds me of how we’re really not that different.
The happiness posts are a way of expressing gratitude. Since gratitude is a form of prayer, it follows that happiness posts are essentially prayers that we share.
The writer Anne Lamott has said that all prayer boils down to “thanks,” “help,” and “wow.” That sounds about right to me, except I think “wow” could also fall into the “thanks” category.
I think the writer Ella Wheeler-Wilcox would approve of the happiness challenge if she were still alive. “Talk happiness,” she wrote. “The world is sad enough without your woe.”
This week, I’m grateful for a lot of things, but as our garden winds down, I’m particularly happy that our tomatoes have been so delicious this season. This year they were so juicily good I went through a period of about three days when all I wanted to eat was tomato sandwiches.
I know that a fat tomato slice tucked between pieces of white bread slathered with Duke’s mayonnaise or Miracle Whip (for the blasphemous) is supposedly the way we do it in the South, but that doesn’t work for me anymore. Don’t judge me for gettin’ above my raisin’, but these days, I prefer a tomato sandwich constructed with toasted Ezekiel bread and a divine concoction called horseradish aioli, that could be described as mayo for grown-ups. Heavenly.
I’m also happy that I recently received 20 handwritten thank-you notes, complete with drawings and creative flourishes, from the second-graders in the class my daughter teaches at Overton Elementary — and all because I provided grapes for a snack. I’m keeping these lovely notes in my cubby at work for when I need a happy fix.
And speaking of work, another happy thought is that my job with Lutheran Services Carolinas allows me a work life that puts me in contact with fascinating people. I recently talked to the son of a 100-year-old resident of Trinity View in Arden, one of LSC’s senior living communities. Stanley Johnson competed against Olympic legend Jesse Owens in the long jump while he was a student at MIT and Owens was a student at Ohio State University. Johnson also competed with Owens — who won 4 gold medals at the 1936 Olympics — at the Olympic trials. The two men were friends.
I loved learning about Stanley Johnson — and it also makes me happy to be able to Google “Jesse Owens” as part of my job.

What’s making you happy? Email me at salposthappy@gmail.com.