Doctor of Happiness

BLOG #11, SERIES #6
WEDNESDAYS WITH DR. JOE
DOCTOR OF HAPPINESS
March 18, 2015

Serendipitously, while still sifting through thousands of stories in my archives, I found the perfect companion piece to last week’s blog, “How to Be Happy?” When I checked the source, I knew I had to incorporate it into this week’s blog, for the story was featured in the November 1935 issue of Sunshine magazine, published by Sunshine Press in Litchfield, Illinois. Sunshine has long been one of my favorite magazines, both for its stories and for its quotations. I’ve anthologized many of the stories, and in my daily quotation tweets, few sources do I raid more often than Sunshine magazine.

During the last period of its existence, it was published by Garth Henrichs, and he and I became good friends. When I told him of my love for the magazine, he sighed and said, “Your words mean a great deal to me – especially since age is catching up with me and I have no one to carry on after I’m gone.” We stayed in contact until the late 1980s, when Garth was finally forced to close the doors of Sunshine Press, founded by his father Henry Henrichs. But before he died, he entrusted me with the legacy of keeping Sunshine alive in my writing and books. Neither blogs nor tweets existed back then. Thus, I’m confident Garth would be filled with joy to see this story by an unknown author live again.

Enjoy!

“MARY ANN, Ph. D.”

Mary Ann was a scrubwoman. But that didn’t prevent her from being a philosopher, although she did not know herself by that designation. It is not uncommon these days to find excellent wisdom wrapped up in odd and unpromising packages.

Mary Ann did a lot of thinking as she scrubbed, which did not hurt the scrubbing. Her conclusions may not have matched the classic cogitations of the collegiate or his companions in wisdom, but they were ideas that had the spice of sense in them. And that’s something.

It was one of those depressing, damp days too prevalent in the great city. Mary Ann was scrubbing the imposing stone steps of a well-known banking institution, when a banking official known to the scrubwoman entered. He paused for a moment, as he often did, to exchange a bit of conversation with Mary Ann. He hoped she might be happy and well. She was well, and had a good appetite, thank you. And she had a “right smart amount” of happiness, too, but not any too much.

Mary Ann often had pondered that matter with a view to discovering a satisfying conclusion. At the best, she found it a somewhat complex affair, but not wholly confounding. She had evolved what might be called a philosophy of happiness – she had to have one to keep going and hold up her end of the day’s demands. Life would be unbearable in a city tenement, and crushing to a scrubber of bank portals, without some definite ideas about happiness and contentment. Her philosophy might not conform to the most logical reasoning, nor blend with the poet’s dream of bliss, but it satisfied Mary Ann.

Looking up at the banker from her kneeling position, Mary Ann quaintly said, “There ain’t no happiness in this world, ‘cept what we makes ourselves.”

“Quite a chunk of wisdom,” thought the banker, but he said nothing. Mary Ann hesitated, expecting the banker to pass on, but he did not. Instead, he stood there and just looked at her.

Mary Ann raised up on her knees. “You see,” she continued, “happiness, t’ me way o’ thinking, is something inside o’ you. A lot o’ folks ‘spect somebody t’ come along an’ fill ‘em full o’ happiness, an’ all they think they got t’ do is jest t’ do nothing. You know, Mister, that makes me feel kinda ‘shamed o’ meself – jest like we humans can’t take care o’ ourselves.”

“Seems to me,” continued Mary Ann, seeing that the banker friend was still listening, “seems t’ me what we git from other folks, what some call happiness, is something cheap, an un–ungenuine. What you git from inside yerself is all good, and it sticks.”

The banker looked enviously at Mary Ann. He found little genuine happiness in his relationships with people. Certainly he found pleasure in business–when it was good. As to happiness from the “inside,” as Mary Ann had said, his responsibilities and worries were altogether too heavy to admit of it. Hence, Mary Ann’s philosophy was somewhat perplexing, effective as it appeared to be.

“Are you happy, Mister?” questioned Mary Ann, unexpectedly.

The banker was embarrassed, and he hesitated before he answered. “Oh, yes–why, yes, of course,” he stuttered, “Maybe not the kind you are talking about. You see, I depend on society–business success, you understand, to supply my happiness.”

Mary Ann looked up at the banker, laughing, “aw, you ain’t had no happiness at all. All you git that way ain’t happiness–it’s nothing only pleasure. That ain’t happiness. I bet it don’t last no longer than it takes you t’ git away from it.” And Mary Ann laughed again.

The banker walked slowly away. “Mary Ann, Doctor of Philosophy,” he muttered. “The half of all I own would I give to experience the happiness Mary Ann possesses. My money entangles me in snares I cannot break. Would that I might cast it off, but my family and my friends live on the fruits of my investments. I cannot forsake them. I live in fear of something, I know not what. I am worried – worried— ”

When Mary Ann finished scrubbing, she hummed a little tune all her own. Weary in body, to be sure, but happy because the portals were shining – a work well done – and she was earning an honest and respectable living, and she could look the whole world in the face. The contagion of her happiness shed a ray upon her surroundings and brightened the outlook of those near by.

The banker, wise in many things, foolish in the greatest, experienced a bit of Mary Ann’s brand of happiness when, on the early morning of Thanksgiving Day, he deposited at Mary Ann’s tenement door a huge basket bulging with good things. It was in material things, such as these, that he had sought his own happiness, but in his own possession rather than in the possession of others. Suddenly he realized the folly of his own philosophy.

In the basket left at Mary Ann’s door, hidden among the profusion of good things, she found a note written in the banker’s own hand. It merely said: “It is more blessed to give than to receive. Thanks to Mary Ann.”

Advertisements

CHILDREN WHO DISPOSSESS THEIR PARENTS

BLOG #37, SERIES #5
WEDNESDAYS WITH DR. JOE
CHILDREN WHO DISPOSSESS THEIR PARENTS

September 10, 2014

Such cruelty has always been with us, but never, at least to my knowledge, has it been as wide-scale as it is today. Just in my own circle of family, friends, and acquaintances, the following examples have either recently taken place or are taking place as I write this:

A son and his wife are so eager to get the aged mother’s money that they gradually take more and more of it until they reach the point where they even begrudge her continuing to enjoy her health. They move her into assisted living, then openly talk in front of her about how much she is costing them, and tell her that she should hurry up and die! Which she, broken-hearted, proceeds to do.

A multimillionaire begins to fail some in terms of his mental-edge; fortunately, he has a wife who loves him and cares for his needs. The children, however, cannot wait for their father’s life to run its course. They force their father to divorce his wife so they can evict both of them from their home, put him in a “rest home,” where he’s dying with very few people who even come to visit him.

A multimillionaire begins to fail in his mid-nineties; he has plenty of money to pay for care-takers, and plans to eventually die in the home he’s lived in for most of his life. Not content with this, his children fire the caretakers and evict their father, in order to be in position to liquidate his property and use that money for themselves now rather than later.

These are just a few cases to illustrate my point. It used to be the norm that the aged were revered, admired, and looked up to in society. In many societies that is still true today. But in America, all too often, greed trumps relationships, and violates the commandment to honor their father and mother.

I can’t help wondering if the trashing of traditional marriage, epidemic of live-in relationships as the new norm, and skyrocketing divorce-rate, is not resulting in a new House of Horrors for the aged. Some of the cases I’m referring to don’t fall within the disintegration of the home category, but I’d venture to say that most of them do. Since 99% of children pattern their own behavior on that of their parents, if their parents live me-first, my gratification-first, lives, it should not surprise us to discover that life has a way of coming full-circle: as we dish out to others–think children–, so it will be eventually dished back to us.

I haven’t even mentioned another all-too-sad reality: the greed-related animosity and hatred that results when one sibling is perceived to have received more from a parental estate than did another. My father, who was a minister, often told us how monetary value of an item is bad enough by itself, but when you stir in sentimental value, a twenty-five-cent item can result in driving a permanent wedge between two siblings. That’s why my parents kept urging us to choose ahead of time which items we wanted from their possessions while they were still alive so that there would be no relationship-wrecking among us after they passed away. We are doing the same with our children.

I don’t have any answers for all this–only sorrow that it is happening on such a wide scale in America today.