In pondering the question of what makes me smile, I realize that I have no plans to get rid of any and everything in my life that doesn’t bring me joy. This ideology seems to be the deciding factor of the question “to keep or not to keep” these days. But I’m not buying it. If I did only keep joyful items, we would have very little furniture, flooring, or bathroom tile. Sometimes I make peace with things that I may not adore, accepting that they are functional even if they aren’t beautiful. I guess I’m from the “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mindset like my Great Depression era parents.
I have no need to fill landfills with my out-of-style possessions just to be fashionable. That money can be used in more meaningful and even charitable ways. I can, however, make an effort to acknowledge what does bring real joy or at least a smile. Like an out of the blue flower arrangement and smiling balloon from my friend Marcie. That made me smile so big and made my day. Because I’m a real sentimental sort who loves the act of sharing and caring, anything that evokes warmth in my chest, and I don’t mean a hot flash, or evokes a memory worth revisiting gets a pass as a thing to keep.
When I made the bed this morning, I smiled at my quilt. Do I have a patchwork fixation? No, but I thought instantly of the artist that put together my warm bedcover. My daughter Sarah dismantled well-worn tee shirts from places we’ve travelled and from activities she and her siblings have enjoyed, and then stitched those memory squares together to create a masterpiece.
Looking at that quilt takes me back to mission trips in West Virginia, Georgia, South Carolina, and Pennsylvania, plus to all those ski trips with our church youth group. It reminds me of the kids’ school choirs, marching band, German Club, soccer and track teams. The time, talent, energy, and love it took to create such a historical and functional thing of beauty as a surprise for her parents is what makes me smile.
Last week, another piece of artistic delight entered the house along with the bills and junk mail. What a surprise to see a handwritten address on a card-sized envelope. Inside I found a hand painted valentine card sporting a beautiful watercolor otter, created by my artist and writer friend Lisa Otter Rose. Each February she sends me a one of a kind, hand-decorated card filled with words of affirmation and friendship. That smiling otter propped up on the kitchen counter makes me smile back as I fix a sandwich and reflect on my friend’s thoughtfulness.
The new wall hanging my oldest daughter, Danielle, created for me definitely sparks joy. It’s made from a curved piece of driftwood found on our lake house waterfront, copper chain links that are works of art in themselves, and precious stones—each a different mineral and color. Danielle is a former jewelry designer. Once she turned mom and speech therapist, she packed up her jewelry-making supplies. The fact that she pulled them out again to make this for me speaks to the beautiful human being she is. I can’t help but smile.
Just this very moment, I’m smiling from cheek to cheek at the peanut butter smoothie my nephew Michael just brought me that I’m sad to say is nearly gone. I see a major connection here between what brings joy and acts of love. Gifts of love and acts of caring make me smile. Instead of giving up what doesn’t bring me joy, I need to make more of an effort to share joy with others. Make something, take something, share something. That would make me smile.