Philosopher Eric Hoffer once said: "You can never get enough of what you don't really need to make you happy." In truth, what makes us the happiest is giving to others, but for some reason it takes a long time for us to internalize and really believe this simple truth. Plus, even when we know it, we still don't always practice it.
Today, my younger daughter's church youth group practiced it. They dressed up in Halloween costumes and went "reverse trick-or-treating" at a nursing home. Instead of getting candy, they gave candy to the residents. But even more than that, they gave their time and their love, bringing wide smiles to the faces of the residents as they introduced themselves and talked about their costumes. It was a brief interlude involving simple acts of kindness, but it was easy to see from the reactions of the residents that it meant so much to them.
I couldn't help but making comparisons with my mother when she was dying, thinking about how much she enjoyed it when my children and their friends came to her bedside for a visit. Instead of wanting solitude and quiet, she wanted joy and energy around her. She fed off it, and it gave her strength.
Children naturally gravitate towards helping others. It is part of their makeup. But it's up to us to facilitate situations where they can do this on a regular basis. And at the same time these opportunities also give us adults a chance to pay it forward as well.
"Happy Halloween," the kids said all together as they left one woman's room.
"Please come back again," she said with a wave from her wheelchair.
"We will," one of the parent volunteers said enthusiastically.
And you know what, we will...
Amanda Lamb is the mom of two, a reporter for WRAL-TV and the author of several books including three on motherhood. Find her here on Mondays.