I want you to take a moment to think of a time when someone has made you truly happy. Have you ever been having just the Worst day ever, then someone turns it completely around by simply smiling at you? Or have you been really down about something, and then someone treats you kindly and makes you feel better? Or when just knowing they’re thinking about you makes you feel less alone? Think about a time when someone’s actions have had this effect on you, and reflect on Why it made you feel better. I think that why is beautifully captured in this quote by Bl. Mother Teresa:

“Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God’s kindness: kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile.”                                                                                                                                       –Bl. Mother Teresa

Honestly, this quote pretty much sums up my entire philosophy of life, what I believe is important to strive for. Pursuing the good of others, treating everyone kindly, and spreading as much joy around as possible are three of the most important things you can ever do. And while it might seem like they’re very outwardly-focused actions, they also affect you in very definitive ways, by increasing your own personal growth and happiness. 

A few weeks ago I went with a group of people to our state penitentiary to give out Christmas presents and carol.  There were just over 1200 inmates that we were able to visit, share some scripture with, and give out small gift bags and fruit to. It was a several hour-long process of transporting boxes packed with presents, moving to different cell blocks, and personally wishing each individual a Merry Christmas.

If you’ve never been to jail before and haven’t already guessed, it can be a very depressing place to visit. It’s dark, and the feeling of angst and pain is tangible. Everything seems dirty and unwelcoming. When it’s around the holiday season, it’s even sadder to think about how many families are separated during such a special time of year, and how hard it must be to spend it locked up.  It was amazing to see how the group’s brief encounter with these totally strangers could have such a transformative effect on them. People that would appear intimidating or unhappy would begin to smile and seem much happier when the familiar Christmas tunes would start, and everyone lined up to receive Christmas cards and presents.

Individually, all we could share with them was a quick smile and a few words before they had to move down the line and the next person came along. But in those brief seconds of interaction, we were able to share respect, kindness, and joy with one another. We recognized the value and personhood of one another, and to see only the best in them, despite the environment around us.  By the time that our few hours were up, the feeling of brokenness and sadness of that place was transformed into one of hope.

I think the main point of this quote is to be Genuine. To treat others the way you want to be treated. To be respectful, caring and without any ulterior motive.  To try to be Christ to others, a.k.a. to love them in a completely genuine, unconditional way.  I absolutely love how joyful it is! It might be a little bit of a “Pollyanna” perspective on life for some, but pursuing it seems to result in so much joy and zest for life, that I can’t help but try and emulate her “always find a reason for being glad” mentality.