Years ago my friend told me a story that is one of my favorite all-time stories and I think it’s worth sharing. I’m going to refer to my friend as – Margaret – since I neglected to ask permission to share her name. (Although I am pretty sure she would have given me the green light) It’s a story for everyone – and its a story about why being happy matters.
When Margaret was a young mom she found herself buried down with babies and toddlers and all of the responsibilities that go along with that. She was very earnest about keeping a nice home and trying to raise her kids to be polite and well behaved…but life wasn’t falling into step with her good intentions.
Kids have a tendency to make you crazy and Margaret was drowning in the crazy. She couldn’t stay ahead of the laundry, the grocery list, fighting kids, and on top of that she was sleep deprived.
Instead of being kind, patient, and happy…Margaret started to become tense and iriritable. As the kids made her crazier Margaret became crabbier and each day that her husband came home she greeted him with a martyr-like attitude.
One Sunday morning after Margaret somehow managed to get the kids ready for church, she and her husband rolled into the church parking lot and finally dropped the kids off at their Sunday school classes. Margaret breathed a sigh of relief thinking she finally had one solid hour to herself.
And then…her husband gently took her by the arm and said to her, “Margaret, today we aren’t going to church. There is something I have been wanting to talk to you about so lets go out in the car so we can talk in private.”
Margaret was scared to death – to say the least. What could be so important that they needed to miss church and sit in the parking lot and talk? All kinds of scenarios ran through her mind.
Then her husband told her in the kindest and most loving way, “Margaret – you try so hard and you do more than I would ever expect you to do. But there is something you need to know. When I come home from work I don’t care if the house is messy and I don’t care if there is dinner on the table. We can order pizza for all I care. I don’t care if the laundry is folded and I don’t care if you are wearing pajamas. There is only one thing that I care about. When I come home, I would like to come home to a happy wife.”
Now, if you knew Margaret, this story would totally crack you up. She is a petite little thing and she is gentle, kind, patient, solid as a rock, loads of fun and happy. It’s hard to imagine the crabby-pants version of Margaret but she will tell you it is true.
Margaret was receptive to her husband’s plea and this is what her life looks like today –
Margaret and her husband have had an exceptional marriage for decades and their children are now grown up with children of their own. They are the kind of family you dream you will have when your kids grow up someday. They are a strong family unit and they enjoy their time together. They are solid and fun and they are happy.
”If we want to change things, we must first change ourselves.”
Take a look at these different scenarios and consider the ways how one person might impact an entire group –
Negative and lazy versus hardworking team player
Critical and complaining versus upbeat and supportive
Person entering a party of strangers –
Cool and standoffish versus warm and welcoming
Distant and preoccupied versus happy and engaged
Short fuse, uptight, and constantly correcting versus patient, encouraging and ….happy.
I love Margaret’s story. I love it that Margaret’s husband drew a loving boundary and helped her become the best version of herself. And I love it that she heard his plea and took it to heart. She wasn’t defensive and she didn’t go on the offense.
That one little parking lot conversation was a pivotal moment that got them moving in a better direction and…
They lived happily ever after…