About halfway through the school year at the Boys & Girls Club I put a blue bucket in my room at the club. I called it the “Happy Bucket.” The idea was based off of a journal that I started a year and a half ago that contains things that make me happy, smile, laugh, or feel blessed. My book currently contains 980 items and I am getting quite excited for the happy dance that I will have when I reach 1,000. Some things are small and rather insignificant, while other items made a huge impact on my life. Items range from Here Comes the Sun Pandora, leftover board meeting food, and Frostys in Coos Bay to seaweed, sunshine in Eugene and the Barko’s Bible study.
My final year in college my Nana gave me a book entitled, 14,000 Things to Be Happy About. The book is essentially a list of things that make the author happy. After reading through a few of her items that made my roommates and I giggle, we decided to each start a book of our own.
In my room at the Boys & Girls Club sat this blue bucket filled with yellow slips of happy phrases. The directions were simple:
What makes you happy?
1. Take a slip of paper.
2. Write down something that made you happy today.
3. Put it in the bucket.
Let’s see how much happiness we can fill the bucket with.
The first day that I put the blue bucket out, it was one of my activities for the day. As members would enter my room I would direct them to this bucket. Eventually, this bucket was placed on my side counter next to my Member of the Month Bulletin Board, member’s artwork, the Bored Jar, and popular books that members would enjoy.
Sometimes I would gather a few members to walk around the Club with the bucket and ask other members to put some yellow in the bucket. It made me so happy to see these kids encouraging their peers to think about things that make them happy. For most of the year though, the bucket of happy would sit on the side counter and be visited daily by its usual visitors.
There were many members who would frequently stick a yellow slip into the bucket. Occasionally I would check out the new level of yellow and a smile would be brought to my face. How can your day not be made when you look at childrens’ happiness of bacon, God, video games, staff Katie, candy, or sunshine? How can your heart not be filled with joy after seeing what brings other’s joy?
Out of all of the members who slipped some happy into the bucket, there were two teen girls that I will never forget. Every day, and I mean every day, these two girls would giddily gallop into my room with huge smiles, take a slip of paper, and record their happy moment for the day. Sometimes when these girls would arrive, my room would not yet be opened. Many times I would be in the Games Room when they got to the Club, which was right outside of my door. I would usually wait in the Games Room until more members arrived before opening up my room for the rest of the day.
When I was not open, these girls would run up to me, yelling my name, and tell me that I HAD to open my room. They had something that they MUST add to the bucket. I would open my room just for them to go in and add their happy. Skipping to the bucket, they would put in their happy, thank me, and skip right back out of the room. One day was especially memorable as they brought a new friend who proceeded to sing and dance to the song Happy while his friends made their daily deposit.
Before leaving the Boys & Girls Club and returning back to Pennsylvania last week after my AmeriCorps service year ended, I gave each of these two girls a Happy Book of their own so that they could continue to record these memories and so they could look back on these items when they needed a boost or when they needed to be reminded of a happy time. I wrote each girl a note and ended with the following quote:
Take your time.
Believe in possibility.
Do something creative every day.
Do what makes your heart sing.
On the very last day that I was at the Club, I asked one of the girls how her Happy Book was going. She told me that she had written something every day since she received the book three weeks before and that she even has her sister now writing in a Happy Book. I truly could not have been happier. As my Uncle Tim had once shared with me, “Joy is something deeper than happiness and is found in helping others.” This quote has taken on a whole new meaning in my life after spending a year at the Boys & Girls Club of the Umpqua Valley. Seeing a member laugh or smile is what made me truly love the opportunity that I was fortunate to have for the last year.
Spread the Happy.