The Secret Society of Happy People
As I was plowing through my files trying to find something cheerful to
write about during the election mania, I found a list of "Happy Things:
The 100 Happiest Events, Inventions and Social Changes of the
Century." It was clipped out of a newspaper with no date, but I looked
it up on the web (how were we ever happy without the Web?) and sure
enough, there really is a Secret Society of Happy People. Its
headquarters are in Texas, which may tell us something. It was started
in 1998 to encourage people to talk more about their happiness and
discourage parade raining. Their home page says that, "Somewhere
between The Ed Sullivan Show and The Jerry Springer Show talking about
being happy became politically incorrect. We're more comfortable airing
our dirty laundry than telling people we've had a happy moment."
When did you last sit around the table in the coffee shop and say, "Boy,
do I feel good today: the greatest thing just happened?" Well, the
Society of Happy People wants you to make it a habit, and they gave us a
list of happy things.
Number One on their happy list: Indoor Plumbing. Who can argue with
that one? At the beginning of the century most modern American homes in
cities were just being fitted with this great "happy" innovation. But
there were still lots of small towns without it.
One of my college friends had her first teaching job in a small town in
western Colorado and roomed in a house without running water. Saturday
nights were her happy times. Her host family hauled the big round
galvanized tub into the kitchen and filled it with hot water. Then the
family disappeared and she had her weekly bath. Being used to solid
bathtubs, she was somewhat bemused by the system. One night she
undressed and absent-mindedly sat down on the rim of the tub. Sometimes
happy times are all wet. Fifty years later when several of us met for a
reunion down on the Dolores River we were still laughing at that story.
The next four happiest events on the list were air conditioning, medical
technology, women's right to vote and the washer/dryer.
It is an interesting mixture of the important and the trivial. The
Model T Ford is ranked below hair dye, but a bit above the hula hoop.
Barbie is above electric typewriters, but below Girl Scout Cookies. Who
ever said Americans make sense?
I did a very informal, non-scientific poll among my friends, asking them
for their happy things. One said the crock-pot and a good mattress.
Another says the flowers in her garden and yet another says a job she
loves. One is happy listening to soothing music from the 60's and
70's. A friend in my generation said she is happy to get out of bed in
the morning. A boomer friend who survived a serious illness says her
happy moment is waking up to a new day full of hope and promise.
Another says watching a cat make a major adventure out of batting a
Personally, I find that first cup of steaming coffee in the morning
worth getting up for.
The Secret Society of Happy People also published a list of the top ten
happy events of 1999. Number 1 is "No more Y2K hype." Others include
"We're finally done with Monica and Ken Starr," "Susan Lucci finally
wins a Daytime Emmy," and "US Women's Soccer team wins the world cup."
The happiest event of 1998 was, "The first 14 days in 1998 because no
one had heard of Monica Lewinsky and ignorance was bliss."
While I was writing this I learned that Jane Quimby, my long time friend
and neighbor, had just died and I was suddenly aware, more acutely than
usual, of the duality of life. We cannot have happy times without sad
ones. Jane was an expert at finding happy moments, and she shared them
with everyone who came into contact with her. She lived a life of
grace and courage, and would surely advise us to take our happiness
when and where we can. It is finite.