Abraham Lincoln is said to have said, “Most people are about as happy as they choose to be.” When I was a social worker, lo those many, many years ago, I always wanted to have two posters on my wall. One with that quote, and another that simply said, “Get a Grip!” Well, and maybe a third that said, “NO WHINING!!” But, I figured in the context none of them would come across as particularly caring or compassionate. So, I became a college professor instead. Then I retired.
Anyway, I found a version of this story on Paul Brian Campbell’s blog, “People for Others.” He apparently found it on Philip Chircop’s blog, “Wisdom Stories to live by.” Chircop seems to have found it in McMane’s book , “Living Grace: Spiritual Growth in the Everyday World.” (Marlin Press, 2011) page 129. Here is my version of it.
Stella walked into her social worker’s office, grunted a non-greeting and plopped down into the comfortable chair, looking depressed, agitated, resentful and a good bit more gruff than her usual.
The social worker, put on her professional compassionate face and asked, “Stella, can you tell me a bit about your feelings?”
Stella replied, “I don’t remember if I told you but, three weeks ago my Uncle Stanley died and he left me $40,000.”
“Hmmm” the social worker replied “And?”
Stella continued, “then, two weeks ago, my cousin Sophie died and left me $85,000.”
“It sounds like you’ve had a good bit of loss in your life lately” the social worker responded.
Stella cut her off saying “You don’t understand. You see, last week, my great aunt Sasha died, and she left me almost a quarter million dollars!”
The social worker nodded empathically and said, “So, Stella, if I may paraphrase, I hear you saying that you are troubled by the paradoxical feelings of great loss for dearly loved relatives, and gratitude for the generous bequeaths they left to you? Is it these conflicing feelings that are troubling you?”
Stella grunted a sigh of disgust and said, “No, you really don’t understand, you see, this week … nothing.”
When you stop laughing, maybe spend a minute or two thinking about how easy it is to fall into the greed of wanting more, and to forget to appreciate the abundance that we already have in our lives. We are after all about as happy as we choose to be!