In this post I will reveal to you a key to considerable happiness. It is, admittedly a strange key. It costs very little, and in the end never even allows you to know if it’s successful or not. Yet I find it makes me happy in its own serendipitous fashion, so it seems only fair to share it.
Setting the scene: Now that Lisa is the corporate breadwinner in the family and I’m the slovenly stay-at-home writer, keeping the house semi-operational is my chore. Specifically for today’s purpose, this means going to the grocery store—a task I’ve just completed (though, technically this is one of those tedious chores like cutting the grass that can never really be completed, the food goes away after all—another trip to the grocery seems pretty much fated). Generally, I admit this task is not all the glory it’s cracked up to be.
I have, however, I’ve found ways to make it a happier experience.
I’ve written before about using this time to catch up on my consumption of podcasts. Among today’s fare was Paul Hecht reading Max Steel’s “The Hat of My Mother,” a remarkably engaging story of an older woman, her relationship with hats, and the foibles that relationship gets her into. I shall not spoil it further for you other than to say that if you have 30 minutes free to do some mindless listening (like if you’re going to the grocery store soon) you should listen to it It starts at about 20:00.
This is not, however, the secret I intend to share with you.
This secret I intend to share has to do with coupons. Yes, those things you snip out of papers or whatever. Lisa snipped coupons when she was in charge of the groceries, and I snip them now. It takes only a few minutes here and there, and it saves us maybe $5 a week—which is about $250 a year (or about what I can make selling a short story—how’s that for a kick in the pants, eh? A short story is coupon cash…but I digress). I am not, however, here to tell you about how your life can be made happier by saving $5.00 a week.
Instead I want to say this: If you don’t clip coupons for yourself, consider doing it for someone else.
That is the secret. I have recently taken, as I clip my coupons, to noticing the occasional coupon for something I don’t need, and cutting it anyway. Coupons for cereal I don’t like, or for shampoo, or whatever. And then I take them to the grocery. Today, for example, I had about $10.00 in coupons separated out as I walked into the store. These were coupons I had no use for—they covered products I don’t use, or others that I do but were nearing expiration. And today, like I’ve done each time I’ve gone to the grocery the past two months or so, I walked around the aisles with an empty cart, placing coupons in places where my fellow shoppers might stumble upon them. As I placed each, I imagined them picking that coupon up and smiling as they realized they were now getting $1.00 off something they needed–or just liked.
It made me happy, strolling around quietly and unobtrusively spreading my grocery cheer.
When I was done, and only when I was done, I turned my cart around and headed to the produce section to begin my own shopping, smiling and listening to the voice of Paul Hecht as he read a story about an older woman, her family, and her hat.