My holiday comedy sketch The Thanksgiving Fairy features Rick and Toodie, a married couple who are having one of those “nothing-to-be-thankful-for” days. Ever had one of those? (OK, I might as well admit up front that this is a thinly veiled true story.)
The setting is a laundromat:
Being a glass-is-half-full kinda guy, Rick observes, “Hey, our marriage outlasted our washer and dryer!”
“What are the odds?” Toodie snarks.
“Of our marriage lasting?”
“No! Of our washer and dryer dying within two days of each other!”
“Actually, I think it’s kind of touching, like when old couples die so close together because they can’t bear to live without each other.”
Like Rick and Trudy, my wife and I drove to the laundromat every week when we were first married. Back then we read, talked, and thought it was pretty great just having a partner to–literally–share the load with.
But that was then. This is now. Have you ever noticed how your happiness baseline—what you consider necessary for satisfaction—is progressive? It’s based on what you’re currently used to. For example, I recently grumbled about having to drive to an ATM in order to deposit a check. Not many years back I thought ATMs were the bees knees: “Woo-hoo! I don’t have to go inside the bank anymore!”
Now I consider ATMs primitive, and expect all of my banking to be done online. Because…
Happiness baselines shift. Constantly.
Back to Rick and Toodie:
“The Bible says, ‘In every thing give thanks,’” Toodie observes. “How are we supposed to give thanks for this, Rick?”
Rick suddenly finds a fabric softener sheet in a pair of boxer shorts. Chuckling, he says, “You owe me a buck.”
“What?” Toodie says, but then realizes what he means.
“The Dryer Fairy!” they say together and begin reminiscing about the magical being made up by their children:
“Every time they found one of these in their socks or shirts it was because the Dryer Fairy put it there, and we were supposed to give them a dollar!”
“Only, when we said no they started giving each other a buck out of their own allowance!”
“How cute was that?”
Their mood has been completely altered. Not by comfort. Not by convenience. But by love.
Sometimes our children teach us.
“Looks like you’re being ‘thankful for every thing’ here, babe,” Rick observes.
“Kind of,” Toodie replies, “but it’s ‘in’ everything, not ‘for’ everything. I mean, I’m not thankful for this.” She gestures around her. “But I am thankful for our kids. And for you.”
“That our marriage has outlasted our washer and dryer?”
“Yeah. And that God loves me despite my ratty attitude.”
“Hey, 80% of gratitude is attitude,” Rick notes.
“And the rest is ‘grrr.’ That’s the part I was focusing on.”
Happiness isn’t necessary for gratitude, gratitude is necessary for happiness. The only way to be consistently happy is to build your happiness baseline on gratitude. Yes, God wants us to be happy. But he knows that gratitude (from the Latin gratis = “thank you”) is necessary for happiness, so he commands us to give thanks! (I Thessalonians 5:18)
King David put it this way: “Enter with the password: ‘Thank you!’ making yourself at home!” ~Psalm 100:4
Happiness is a habit. And gratitude is the behavior that forms it. Want to be happy? Practice. Not just on the holiday that tells you to…
But every day!