Do you know the pony joke?
The joke concerns twin boys of five or six. Worried that the boys had developed extreme personalities -- one was a total pessimist, the other a total optimist -- their parents took them to a psychiatrist.
First the psychiatrist treated the pessimist. Trying to brighten his outlook, the psychiatrist took him to a room piled to the ceiling with brand-new toys. But instead of yelping with delight, the little boy burst into tears. "What's the matter?" the psychiatrist asked, baffled. "Don't you want to play with any of the toys?" "Yes," the little boy bawled, "but if I did I'd only break them."
Next the psychiatrist treated the optimist. Trying to dampen his outlook, the psychiatrist took him to a room piled to the ceiling with horse manure. But instead of wrinkling his nose in disgust, the optimist emitted just the yelp of delight the psychiatrist had been hoping to hear from his brother, the pessimist. Then he clambered to the top of the pile, dropped to his knees, and began gleefully digging out scoop after scoop with his bare hands. "What do you think you're doing?" the psychiatrist asked, just as baffled by the optimist as he had been by the pessimist. "With all this manure," the little boy replied, beaming, "there must be a pony in here somewhere!"
What does it mean to be happy? Why are some people happier than others? How do you get happy? I was pondering these questions on my walk to work this morning. So many people I passed were walking with their head and eyes downcast looking sleepy or resigned or defeated.
I am an incurable optimist and aggressively cheerful. I get asked sometimes, “Why are you always so happy?” It always stumps me a little. I have had a variety of explanations put forward as to why this is so. People who share my faith say it is because I am a Christian. People that aren’t so fond of me say it is because I am not very smart. Others have told me it is because I haven’t faced true hardship in life. While these all may be true, I think there is another explanation that must be taken into account: heredity.
My sister is about as different from me as you can get but she is also a little sunbeam of happiness most of the time. Our paternal grandmother and our maternal grandfather were some of the most cheerful people I have ever met in my life. My mother once said that I was like my father’s mother because I could walk into a roomful of pessimists and they would become optimists in self defense! Our father looks on the sunny side of life in spite of being a pastor for over thirty years. (I say in spite of because unless you have been a pastor or lived in the parsonage you cannot appreciate how much of the time you see people at their very worst.)
I have thought long and hard about why I tend to be such a happy person and about the people I know that are genuinely cheerful most of the time. I don’t know that it is something that can ever be learned. I think to some extent it is just “how you are”. I find even times when I have been in the depths of despair (and believe me, I have had my moments) I have never felt like good times would not come around again.
I have a friend that has been through the most difficult time this last year. She has been through the wringer and yet, she still looks for the pony. I have another friend that has a lovely life -- a house, a great family, a job and friends. He has a good thing going but he is never satisfied. He is always trying to “find happiness” but it constantly eludes him.
If you want the secret to happiness, I will be happy to share my faith with you. It is definitely a contributing factor. If being smarter means I will be unhappy, I will stay ignorant and I hope if I face true hardship in life, I will manage to do it with a smile. I count my blessings often especially if I get to feeling like the toys will just break. The very nicest thing my husband has ever said was this: “The day I married you, I married my sunshine.”