Extracted from LESSONS LIFE HAS TAUGHT ME, by JP Vaswani
27 May, 2014
Mrs. Warren-Smith was a very wealthy socialite, who was, like many of her rich friends, ‘under therapy’. Every alternate day, she would wear her most expensive and fashionable suit to visit the plush offices of her psychiatrist, lie on his couch and vent her grievances on the unkind cuts that life had dealt her. “Nobody loves me, nobody understands me,” was her constant refrain. Or else, she would say, “I have lost my appetite; I just don’t want to eat any more,” or at other times, “I just can’t get to sleep! I am suffering from severe insomnia.”
Her psychiatrist, Mr. Cooper, M.D., allowed her to have her way for the first six weeks of therapy, and heard out her whole litany of complaints. On her next visit, he informed her that actual treatment would begin from then, and that her session that day would be with a ‘happiness expert.’ Mrs. Warren-Smith was very pleased. She was getting fed up with the good doctor’s unresponsive demeanour and silent note-taking. Maybe the happiness expert would be more sympathetic. At any rate, it would be nice to recite all her old complaints to a new person.
The doctor opened the door of the consulting room and called out, “Mrs. Jones, would you please come in now?” She was shocked to see the lady who entered with her broom and mop and bucket; why, she had seen this woman before; it was none other than the cleaning lady who was wiping or sweeping or dusting in the lobby of the posh building where Mr. Cooper and other doctors had their clinics. Mrs. Jones put away her cleaning materials and took her seat near the couch, as the doctor had indicated. She folded her hands and put them primly on her knees; Mrs. Warren-Smith noticed that her hands were rough and calloused; her nails were not polished or painted; she wore absolutely no make-up, and her dress was plain and simple. But her eyes sparkled, and the loveliest smile played upon her lips.
“Tell us, Mrs. Jones,” the doctor began, “are you happy?”
“Yes, thank you doctor,” smiled the lady. “I am very happy indeed.”
“And how is your appetite these days?” the doctor continued, “Do you eat well?”
“The good Lord blesses me with two square meals a day,” smiled Mrs. Jones, “and I am happy to say, I do justice to what He sends me.”
“And, do you sleep well at night?”
“The moment my head hits the pillow, I nod off, and I only wake up when the sunlight creeps into my room.”
“Tell me Mrs. Jones, were you always this happy?”
“My dear Sir, you know how miserable I was when I lost my husband and son in that railroad accident five years ago,” said Mrs. Jones, wiping away a tear.
“You must remember, I even stopped coming to work.”
“Please go on,” urged the doctor, “tell us, what happened after that?”
“Well, I sank into a mire of depression and misery,” said Mrs. Jones. “I could not eat, I could not sleep, and I hated meeting people or even talking to anyone. I shut myself up in my little flat, and became a recluse.
“One evening, I heard a pathetic mewing and scratching noise at the door. It was a little kitten who had been separated from its mother and abandoned by the family. The little creature was so lost and so scared that my heart melted at the very sight of her. I took her inside and gave her some milk in a saucer. She lapped it all up in a jiffy and gave me a look that made me hug her to myself. I decided to take her in and make her my pet and my companion. You won’t believe how she was transformed in a day’s time with all the love and care I gave her! And, as for me, I found a new purpose to my existence! Far from being an abandoned, sad woman, I found that I was in a position to help other creatures, who were worse off than me.
“Soon, the thought came to my mind, that if a little animal could be made so happy with my kindness, how much more happiness I could offer to my fellow human beings. So, the next day, I baked some cookies and took them over to the old lady who lived upstairs. How delighted she was, and how delighted I was to see her so pleased!
“And that was how my new life began. I did whatever I could to make people happy. I baked cakes and biscuits for old and young neighbours; I began to baby-sit for my younger friends; I volunteered to care for the animals at the stray dogs shelter. I returned to work because I needed more money to make more people happy. And since then, Sir, I have not looked back!”
“But my good woman,’ Mrs Warren-Smith protested, “you are not an expert! You cannot take on the cares and anxieties of people with complex problems!”
“True, madam, I am not an expert at treating people,’ confessed Mrs. Jones. “But I can smile! And I can offer a shoulder for people to cry on! And that doesn’t need expertise now, does it madam?”
Mrs. Warren-Smith stared speechlessly at the cheerful, bright-eyed cleaning woman! She had indeed discovered the secret of happiness! She simply made others happy, and the happiness that went out from her to others came back to her manifold.
Extracted from LESSONS LIFE HAS TAUGHT ME, by JP Vaswani.