As a kid, some of us are lucky enough to have an instinctual ability to cultivate happiness from the smallest, or maybe the strangest things. As an adult, it helps to sometimes think back to how it felt to be a kid and how it felt to be easy to please, to be happy with the smallest things, even when the time of enjoyment lasted just a moment or two. Remember the happiness you felt as a kid seeing and petting a friendly dog on the street? At stomping gloriously in a mud puddle? At blowing bubbles and watching them float away? These are the bits of happiness that children instinctually appreciate and accept for their transitory nature- just as they are.

When I was a kid I used to think and daydream about gardens. I’d read the book The Secret Garden which planted ideas in my head about beautiful and mysteriously powerful gardens, gardens that could fix things and heal lives. The problem was – we lived in Florida and other than a few attempts at growing roses along the front walk, or cutting back all the Palmetto plants that grew everywhere, we definitely didn’t have the kind of garden I envisioned in my fantasies!

I remember one year I wanted to grow huge sunflowers like you see in pictures – sunflower fields with flower faces following the sun across the sky as far as you can see. Or, you know, just a giant sunflower. I was about 10 or so and I already thought that maybe my dreams needed to be a little more realistic than an entire field of sunflowers.

I had some sunflower seeds from a garden pack and planted them (in the shade!) along the side of the house. I’d go and check on them every day. I’d water them and pat the Florida sand they were planted in. I was so excited when they sprouted and began to grow! I nursed along my little baby sunflowers and they grew to about 4 inches tall. Inches, not feet. They each made a tiny little sunflower which lived a few weeks and then they died. They stayed itty bitty and I never did understand why they didn’t grow big and tall like the pictures I’d seen, but they still made me tiny little sunflowers and I gave them all my little kid love.

A few years ago, I remember being unaccountably happy and excited when a sunflower seed fell out of our bird feeder, planted itself and grew big and tall. I’d see it each day, smiling away, following the sun all summer long then bowing its head and feeding the birds in the Fall. Each summer since, at least one sunflower has grown under the bird feeder and I smile every time I see it.

In all those years until now, I never remembered my early adventures with the itty bitty sunflowers, but now I understand that the seeds of my happiness each summer watching my birds and seeing my smiley sunflower face following the sun were planted in me, long, long ago.

Looking back with adult eyes that know a little more about gardening than I did as a kid, I realize that those itty bitty sunflowers shouldn’t even have been possible—planted in the deep shade, looking for nourishment from the thin Florida sand, but my love for them and my belief made it possible.

If bad times have come to your life today, try to remember that you have the seeds of happiness in any circumstance already within you. You have to choose to look for whatever good or lesson you can find in your situation and remember, things do change over time and better days are coming.


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