I had a great aunt who taught me a tremendous amount about how to create your own happiness. She lived what I now realize was a charmed life. Almost everything went her way, and I believe it was because she chose to be happy regardless of her circumstances.
Once, when I was about 7, I was holding her hand as we were waiting to cross a busy street. She felt me fidgeting and complaining about how many cars there were and that it looked like there would never be a break in the traffic to let us cross the street. She said to me, calmly, “You know, Jimmy, I’ve learned something over the many years I have been crossing streets. No matter how awful the traffic seems, I’ve never waited more than five minutes to cross a street or to wait for a light to change—never.” That comment reflected an aspect of her philosophy that, in reality, things are never as bad as they may seem. That was her experience, too.
She also had developed the habit of seeing more in people than they are currently showing you. I’ll never forget an experience I had watching her interact with a salesperson at a busy department store. It was the Monday after the Christmas holiday and the store was mobbed. We were standing in line with dozens of other people trying to return or exchange their gifts. The woman at the counter was being rude and short tempered with several of the customers before us. I remember her scolding the man in front of us because his receipt did not match the item that he was trying to return. The atmosphere was tense, and people in line stopped speaking to each other. Instead, they were staring at the floor.
When we came to the front of the line, she turned to my aunt Ceil and said, “Alright. What do you want?”
My aunt replied sympathetically, “Are you having a bad day?” The woman ignored the question, looked at the package my aunt was holding and said, impatiently, “Now, do you have your receipt for this item?”
Aunt Celia said, “Oh, my, gosh! You must be having a horrible day!”
At that point, the woman looked into my aunt’s eyes and said, “Well actually, I am having a horrible day. Two of my co-workers didn’t show up and the register is not working right so I’ve had to do everything by hand. It’s been a nightmare.” Aunt Celia said, “I knew something had gone terribly wrong for you. I’m so sorry to hear that you have to take care of all these people by yourself.” The woman said, “Thank-you. I’ll get through it, though.”
We finished our transaction and went on our way, but I couldn’t help noticing that the woman was much friendlier and kinder to the next person in line. The whole atmosphere in the line had changed and everyone seemed more relaxed.
What I took from the experience was that sometimes it doesn’t hurt to see more in a person than he or she is currently showing you. If you speak to a person’s highest self, they will sometimes draft up into that space without realizing that they’re doing it.