Gift of a Happy Heart
A simple Story about a Farmer, Carpenter, Baker, Cobbler, Candlestick Maker, Town Crier, Blacksmith, Mayor, and especially a Little Girl….
After spending months playing with the concept of Thought Soup, then writing, revising, and revising again, I tested my story in fourth and fifth grade classrooms. Would youngsters be able to suspend their disbelief and enjoy the story? Would they sense the message? I found positive answers to both questions. Not only did the students ignore the improbability of a sack holding thoughts and of those thoughts making soup, they also could see what my goal was. One young man, Caleb Allred, stated bluntly, “Your story helps kids have a happy heart.” I wanted to hug him. Later I learned his parents used the concept of a “happy heart” to help guide the behaviors of a houseful of sons. But this youngster had made the connection quite independently and I thank his parents for their efforts to instill a “happy heart” in their sons.
Many of us searching for meaning in life have concluded that life is fundamentally about growing, especially spiritually, and one avenue of growth involves conscious awareness of the activities of our mind. When we develop the habit of stepping outside ourselves, figuratively, and looking at our thoughts, feelings, and actions, we can then choose to consciously let go of those that no longer represent who we understand ourselves to be and replace them with thoughts, feelings, and actions that promote our growth and happiness. And now, kind readers, we see in a simple story, a farmer, a carpenter, a baker, a cobbler, a candlestick maker, a town crier, a blacksmith, a mayor, and especially a little girl, do exactly this. And the benefits are immediate and savory. Our personal efforts may be less dramatic, but equally productive.
I had the great good fortune of living an uncomfortable childhood. Now the many lessons from that experience are a diamond mine of examples of making one’s own misery. My father developed a bizarre jealousy of my relationship with my mother, a vivacious woman who loved her kids, and saw me as a rival instead of a son. My mother ended the physical abuse after one incident, but the emotional abuse continued outside her sphere of influence until I left for college. But my father had given me an incredible gift: a habit of self-reflection. Every time he messed with me, I looked within to see what I had done. When I gained some maturity and could see past, “once again, nothing I did, you mean ass,” and realized many of my problems resulted from my own poor thinking, I could pull myself out of my malaise and start enjoying life. Plus, the many ways others were suffering from the consequences of their too-spicy thinking had become more obvious to me and I could learn from their poor choices.
So how do we encourage the journey toward self-awareness in others. Thought Soup can help. After sharing the story with youngsters, a gentle inquiry about the quality of their thought soup can become a part of our daily interaction: “How would your thought soup taste today?” Kids may even comment on their parents thought soup: “Let’s not have thought soup tonight, Mom. I don’t think we’d like it.” Often, nothing more needs to be said, but the inquiry provides an opening for a healthy conversation if both individuals desire one. Everyone involved in the creation of Thought Soup hopes to hear in the years ahead of many ways it has been used to guide youngsters to greater self-awareness and we’ll share them on this website.