Not many people can say, “I got exactly what I wanted in life.” I can.
One of the inside jokes in my marriage is that when I express extreme joy and/or happiness (which happens daily: this is the best moment of my life, now this is…) my wife says, in a sweet way, “You’re certainly easy to please.”
When I was 13 years old, I decided there were two things I wanted in this life, closely related: “No physical labor, and working in a clean, dry, air-conditioned room.”
I made it! I’m 70 now, and I achieved both of these goals without exception. I’m not likely to blow them between now and my departure, many years from now.
The last two years have added one more-generic goal. Since some miraculous events already described here, I have decided that what I want in life is to spread loving kindness to everyone I know and meet. Jesus and Buddha would be proud of me, if pride were not a sin and it didn’t prolong suffering via attachment.
This additional goal is lofty, less selfish and difficult. But so far, so good. You know what? It doesn’t cost any extra and it turns out to work both ways. The smiles, the hugs (Covid permitting), the dried tears, the laughter, the occasional “You just made my day,” are fringe benefits. However, being nice to everyone, having empathy for those around me, and spreading joy have given me something to do in retirement.
Much of it is unknown to the recipients. Every morning, I thank everyone who helped construct me, living or dead. Because I handle my wife’s medical billing, I spend a fair amount of time on the phone with customer service. I make them laugh. I write to their supervisors to praise them.
On the road, I don’t curse those whose actions seem to me to be impolite, inconsiderate or dangerous. I take a moment to say, “I’m sorry you’re in such a hurry. I hope you get where you’re going safely.” I slow down for people trying to turn into traffic. I don’t race people trying to merge onto the freeway; it’s just as easy to let them come in ahead of me.
When retail clerks ask me about my day, I ask them about theirs.
I actually take those “at the end of this conversation” surveys conducted by robots, so I can give the person who just helped me a bunch of perfect scores. Ditto for those emails that ask me to rank my customer service experience. Because if you go into every transaction wishing to a) accomplish something and b )spread loving kindness, that’s what you do.
I overtip (slightly) and sometimes tip people who aren’t used to being tipped. You’d be surprised how happy that makes people in service businesses.
Robin Williams was right: “Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind.”