Lately, the negativity of the world has affected me more than usual. Over the last few months, several supporters and members at Peace House Community have died or experienced some form of trauma. World news has been bleak. The mornings are darker and colder. Sadly, I’m one of the fortunate ones, as I know many people have to deal with more problems than me.
I recently asked some friends what helps them cope when they start feeling overwhelmed. As a group, we had a difficult time finding an answer. It turns out that, if there’s one thing that will increase someone’s sadness, it’s finding out that there’s no clear antidote to sadness.
Eventually, I did experience something that lifted my mood. Peace House Community held an anniversary event where we went out of our way to say thank-you to our supporters. In the past, an anniversary parties have been a combination “Thank-You Party” and “Please Give Us More Money” events. I’ve always felt a bit manipulative telling our supporters how much they’re support means and immediately trying to get more from them. It felt so much better just to say thanks. After all, we’ve survived the last three years on the backs of people who pray for us, donate money and supplies, and give their time. If it wasn’t for all these people, PHC would have died decades ago.
But there was more to it than simply saying thank-you. This was our first in person anniversary party since covid changed everything. I got to see many supporters and former volunteers who hadn’t come to our building in years. I also met some who had only been names on our mailing list to me. As I said several times during the evening, it felt like a reunion of old friends.
I was much happier the following morning than I had been in quite a while, and I spent time pondering what had caused my change in mood. There were many factors, but I think a large part of it was that I got to do something simple that reminded me of calmer times. I talked with old friends. I relaxed. There’s nothing magical or mystical about it. But at the same time, I wasn’t trying to relax and make myself feel better. If I had, I’m sure I would have kept asking myself, “Are you calm yet? How long will it take you to get happy?” Instead of relaxing, I would have turned the event into a chore.
Maybe that’s why my friends and I couldn’t think of the things we do to cheer ourselves up these days. Cheering ourselves up keeps the focus on our own moods. The things we do to cheer ourselves up sometimes don’t work at all, and even if they do work, we usually are happy only as long as we are doing the activity. Once we stop, the good feelings stop too.
I wish I could distill exactly what caused my good mood and bottle it up so that I could take a sip whenever I needed it, or I could pass the bottle to someone else who needed it. Obviously, I can’t, but at least I can say that happiness does still exist, and that there are breaks in the clouds sometimes, and that simple pleasures can still bring pleasure. Hopefully, that will be enough.
by Marti Maltby, Director Peace House Community – A Place to Belong
This article originally appeared in “The Alley,” the newspaper for the Phillips neighborhood of Minneapolis.