By Bob Groeneveld
Now is the time to kick back and relax.
No more slaving in the kitchen for a while. The Christmas dinners are all consumed, and the leftovers will make living easy for the next few days – if you don’t mind fried stuffing for breakfast, turkey sandwiches for lunch, and turkey soup for supper… for a week.
Most folks will have finished their Christmas shopping by now, except those poor, misguided souls who still believe they can save a few bucks at Boxing Week sales before visiting loved ones they’ve managed to avoid so far.
Personally, I’ve never left Christmas shopping to the very last minute.
And now that I’m retired, I find I can shop for gifts at a more relaxed pace than ever. Nowadays I easily tick off everyone on my Christmas list several hours before the stores close on Christmas Eve.
And I can do it without getting ticked off by every frustrated – and frustrating – sales clerk who has been run off her/his feet for the past month.
Some time ago, I had noticed while Christmas shopping – far too close to Christmas – that practically everyone around me looked miserable.
Here we were, just moments from the most joyous day of the year, looking for gifts to lift the hearts of friends and family and the people we hold most dear to ourselves – and everyone was consumed by angst.
I had recently read in a science journal that not only does happiness make you smile, but smiling makes you happy. The act of smiling releases chemicals into your brain that lift your spirits.
And more remarkably, just seeing someone smile causes the release of those same chemicals.
All my life, I’ve loved doing science. And all around me was a perfect opportunity to conduct an experiment.
So I strapped on the biggest, silliest smile I could muster, and I walked up and down the mall, making eye contact with as many people as I could.
And sure enough, they started smiling right back at me.
Yes, some of those smiles were because people thought I was crazy.
Indeed, a few of them laughed. Out loud. But they weren’t laughing at me. At least, not for long, because soon they were laughing with me.
My own forced smile became real, and I found that the whole thing had made me feel genuinely happy.
Have you ever run into one of those street-corner clowns and wondered how they can do what they do? I think I touched their world for just a moment… and it was nice place to be.
I know you can’t see me right now, but I’m sitting here smiling my silly face off.
And I’m hoping it’s catching.
It’s my wish that my great big contented grin is being transmitted directly to you like some kind of literary contagion.
And I would like nothing better than that we all should be infected throughout the coming year.
Happy 2020, everyone!