Every New Year's Eve, for the last 4 or 5 years, I've been trudging outside at the stroke of midnight, digging a little hole at the edge of a garden and whispering in my wishes for the new year.
It is a cultural custom, but I can't remember where it comes from. Either way, it seems symbolic and hopeful, so I've been doing it.
And, maybe because I've been particularly careful what I'm wishing for, they have all come true.
I had decided that 2011 was going to be the year I focus on our happiness.
(We've finally got stability.)
What that means, I don't know in particular, just that I want to evaluate our choices based on their direct effect on our happiness.
It's an experiment.
And I don't really see how it will be too regrettable... what with our increased happiness and all.
But how to make that into a wish?
I wished for our family to have abundant joy.
Joy is a little different from happiness, in my book.
It is a bit more of a positive outlook, less hedonistic.
And, well, my experience with the wishes is, the more altruistic the better.
But then I lay in bed thinking... how can I make that wish come true?
Other wishes, while maybe more out of my control, also gave me a goal... and working towards that may very well be 90% of the mission.
Then I thought that if I could create small moments of joy in others... well... that would bring me joy.
And maybe spread joy.
And that would be coming closer to the definition of abundant joy.
So I thought, and thought...
I thought about large grandiose gestures, and small everyday.
And then I hit on what I think is a doable, ongoing, year long mission to spread a little joy to others.
Every week I am going to give a $5 gift card to a stranger.
I thought about cash, but I think, that creates a bit more awkwardness.
Once a week, when I'm at a store I'll get a $5 giftcard to that store, and then Kid and I (she's very excited about this) will decided who to hand it to.
"How will we know if they need it?" Kid asked.
"Well, I thought about that last night, we won't. Just because someone doesn't need the $5 doesn't mean they don't need something unexpected to happen to them. Maybe if there is a rich looking lady in line at the Starbucks in Target and we give her the $5, she'll be touched by it, and then in turn go over and pay for an entire person's cartful of stuff at the checkout, which we couldn't do." I explain.
It isn't about saving the world, or making the best possible choice for how to give $5. When looking through that frame, it becomes impossible to carryout. It is simply about giving a small unexpected moment, of befuddlement, surprise... possibly joy.
And then maybe it spreads.
I know, I can still remember EVERY time something like this has happened to me, and it did change me, and make me want to return the favor, in what way I could.
But, maybe, it doesn't... and it's just $5 that stops with that one person.
And that is okay too. Because, the surprise, the giving, it will still bring me joy.
And it will be something that Kid will remember for the rest of her life.
One year, when she was 8, her mom gave away $5 to a stranger every week.
That will change her.
And it'll be worth every penny.