The Secret to a Happy Life!

Earlier this week, when I went to pick up my car from the place where I park in NYC, I found a white envelope on the console. I hadn’t left a white envelope there so I was more than curious as to what it was.

A Christmas card.
From my parking attendant.
In New York City.

Yes, you read that correctly. New York City. I was stunned, too. I don’t go into the city every day. Sometimes not even every week. In fact, I try to avoid New York City since I’m not a big fan of jaywalkers, traffic, and funny people who dance in the street at nine in the morning. People are grumpy in the city. Me, too, some days…especially when it takes 2+ hours to battle my way through the Lincoln Tunnel.

So, it’s understandable that my mother gasped when I told her the story of the Christmas card that the parking attendant left in my car.

“Unheard of,” she said, clucking her tongue. “Are you sure?”

Oh yes, I reassured her. I was quite sure. And, I told her, I had figured something out because of that card…the secret to a happy life.

She waited on the edge of her seat, curious as to what I would share with her. After all, who doesn’t want a happy life?

“Be nice,” I said. “That’s the secret.”

She laughed for several different reasons but I continued.

For over eighteen months, I have adopted a new philosophy toward my own life. The transition occurred in Paris, France when I took a whirlwind tour with my sister and her daughter. I learned that Parisians are some of the nicest people in the world (or at least the countries I have visited). They take a moment to greet people, to ask about your day, and to genuinely care about your answer. And, I think I figured out why they are notorious for not liking Americans: we just aren’t that nice.

When I returned from Paris, I made a decision to be more Parisian. I greet people with a cheerful “HULLOOOOO!!!!”, I talk to the cashiers, joke around with people standing in line with me, ask sales representatives at stores how their day is going, tell anyone who is listening that it’s going to be great day, even talk to people in the elevators…you get the picture. In the beginning, I was surprised by the reactions I received from people. They would frown as they tried to figure out whether I was one of those funny people dancing in the streets or sincerely a nice, happy person. When they realized that I was the latter, I could immediately see their outer shield break down. By the end of our exchange, I often had people thank me for the conversation or even comment that I had changed their entire morning. One even said she was going to try to be as cheerful and happy as I was.

Since that time when I adopted this philosophy, I have noticed that I, as a person, have become much happier. I laugh even when in traffic, finding silly photo opportunities of fellow traffic companions. I look for humor and goodness in every situation.

Oh, trust me, there are some days that I have to decompress or encounter some situations that…well…just plain stink. I’m human, after all. But, as a rule, I approach each day with as much energy and happiness as I can.

Which leads me back to the parking attendant. By greeting this man each time I park my car, by telling him how much I appreciate that he opens my rear door for me so I can put my briefcase there, by wishing him a great weekend…well, I must have changed his days because he went out, purchased a Christmas card, and left it on my console.

Yet, he gave me something much greater than just a card. He gave me a reminder that my philosophy to approaching life is the right approach…for me, anyway. It’s so much better to be nice to others and it becomes contagious. I challenge try it. Let me know how it goes and how much richer your life is because of it.

Happy Holidays!!!



6 thoughts on “The Secret to a Happy Life!

  1. That was nice of him. I’ve lived in a small rural community at different times of my life. People there are quite friendly. I don’t usually have problems till I go to larger communities, then I get the stares if I say hi to a complete stranger in the store, on the street or wherever. Some of my family that live in larger cities told me that I would have to start being ruder when I was in the city so I would fit in and drive much more aggresively. Sorry I found that humorous and didn’t take their advice. So I can really appreciate your story. Merry Christmas, Susan Fryman

  2. I have been doing the same thing as you Sarah for many years. It is so much more enjoyable to be nice and say nice things to people than not to.. Many many, many friends by being this way when I was working taking orders at our little deli restaurant. I am retired now and really miss being at work, meeting new people and making them smile. It made both of our days better. And have made many friends by being being this way with them .

  3. What a wonderful essay on the joys of living. I have begun to tell people how much I appreciate them. It has made all of my days happier. Yes, some do look at me strangely, but most a slightly taken aback and then smile, say thank you. I feel lighter just having said it and they appear lighter having heard it.

  4. Gosh Sarah, I just realized how true this is that we Americans are in so much of a hurry and so darn busy we are grumpy all the time.. I am guilty and now I feel sad for not being more Parisian. So now I have decided I am just gonna try to be more nice and make someone else Happy and even maybe myself. You are a good example of how we all should be. I even stopped sending Christmas cards over the years ,,,what a bah humbug Iv’e become. Off to the store to buy some Christmas cards now and spreading some cheer and maybe that Joy will begin to take root again in my heart!!! Thank You !! And God Bless as always!! and Merry Christmas!!!!!

  5. I always try to go onto Facebook with the same attitude, ‘be nice’, I try to talk about the nice day I’m having and sometimes tell the funny side of a situation. I get a lot of mixed responses and some people say I cheer them up and others tell me off because their life is not as happy. I think it’s all in the way you look at life. (oh, and I do have French ancestors)

  6. That was real nice of the the parking attendant….I know what you are talking about the City Streets of NYC..Been there a few times…Always made my son drive through it…most the times, we’d just find a lot, park in it, and wow, the prices to park, are crazy…Lincoln Tunnel, was real fun too, your right!…My son and daughter in law lived in Jersey City, block from Central Ave..WoWee…I was just glad when they decided to move, bought a house in Levittown, Pa..And got outta NJ….

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.