Month: August 2014

Happiness: Is It Apparent? Part 2

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A couple of weeks ago, we went on a short vacation to Chicago.  The weather was perfect, and people were everywhere.  We went to Chinatown and saw lots of interesting items for sale; things we had not seen before (like dried fish stomachs).  We visited Greek Town.  There were a lot of restaurants.  The food was great.  We rode the train out to Oak Park and visited a small shop that sold Irish items.  The lady said she travelled to Dublin each year and brought back things to sell.  We talked with her for quite a while.

One of the things that impressed me most was taking a tour of downtown by boat on the Chicago River.  The tour itself was enjoyable and informative, but there was a person we saw while on the tour that stuck in my mind the most.  He was an older gentlemen, dressed in a nice grey suit and red tie, and had a big smile on his face.  He stood on one of the many bridges crossing the river and waved to us.  He shouted “Welcome to Chicago.”  We went down the river a little farther and then turned around.  On the way back, the man tossed a rose down to the boat.  A lady caught it and raised it over her head.

I tried to get my camera ready to snap his picture, but the boat had already gone under the bridge.  I looked back once we emerged from the other side, but the man was out of sight, undoubtedly greeting the tour boat behind us.  I felt strangely happy afterwards.

I have no idea who this man was.  He could have been a stock market trader who had retired after making his fortune.  He may have had no money at all, but was just alive and well in Chicago.  Whoever he was, he gave everyone on the boat a good feeling about that great city.  It was apparent that he was happy, and we were happy for him.  Maybe we should all aspire to be more like him.  Greet a stranger today with a smile.  It may make both of you feel good.

Thank you, Mr. Chicago, for giving us a great vacation.

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Happiness: Is It Apparent?

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Like most people, I’m deeply saddened by the death of Robin Williams, on many different levels.  He was a great performer and I will miss his humor and wit, but also his devotion to serious roles.  I never met him, but I get the impression from others that he was a caring and loving man.  There aren’t enough of those in the world.  The way he died hurts me; to think he was so overwhelmed by hopelessness that he didn’t want to live any longer.  It seems like such a contradiction to his comedian persona.

But if you watch his expressions, even when he is cracking people up, you can almost see the sadness in his face.  You would think Robin Williams would have been the happiest person alive, because he could always make someone else laugh, but that wasn’t the case.  I think that makes me sadder than anything else.

Our teenage daughter, who usually doesn’t comment much when entertainers die, said that Robin’s death really saddened her.  My wife said it best: Robin Williams spanned the generations.  Everyone young and old loved him.  I never heard anyone say that they disliked him.  Usually, all you had to do was mention his name and a smile would appear on someone’s face.

Maybe his ability to blurt out the things that made us laugh so hard was also his curse.  Maybe he couldn’t shut it off.  Perhaps his mind ran around in circles constantly until it wore him out.  He could have been like Sherlock Holmes, dependent on substances to dull his brain when there were no mysteries to be solved.  I don’t know.  It’s just conjecture.

I guess we should pay as much attention to the sad smiles as we do the happy smiles.

Robin, I cry for you now at your passing just as hard as I used to laugh with you, but I promise I will still smile when someone mentions your name.