Secrets for staying happy when life is blah

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, July 10, 2002

Two weeks ago I quoted something Vietnamese Buddhist monk and author Thich Nhat Hanh said about happiness:

"If in our daily life we can smile, if we can be peaceful and happy, not only we, but everyone will profit from it. This is the most basic kind of peace work."

Thich Nhat Hanh was describing beautifully longtime coffee companion Sandy Corenblum of Calgary.

Peacemaker and respected mentor in Judaism, Sandy is one of the most positive, affirming people I know. Almost from the start of this column, she has shared experiences and insights that have wonderfully enhanced my own happiness.

For example, last November I sent her a brief, simple note on the anniversary of Kristallnacht, that terrible night of Nazi violence against Jews in Germany and Austria in 1938. Here is her awesomely gracious response:

DEAR FRIEND: Thank you for your love and caring and for bringing so much light into the world. It is by your many singular acts of kindness that the light grows brighter in this world and then many hearts can be healed. By each and every act of kindness such as yours, the world can be rebuilt and people can begin to see themselves in a new way.

Because you remember to remember and reach out across the miles, you spread so much love everywhere. I cannot thank you enough for all that you do. I will try to spread your kindness across the miles to others that I love.

Have I ever shared with you the words that greet me in a framed format each and every morning? These words were found scratched into a wall in a cellar in Cologne, Germany, where a group of Jews were hiding from the Nazis:

"I believe in the sun when it is not shining. I believe in love when feeling it not. I believe in God even when He is silent."

These words, much like your own, inspire me to try and do good things each and every day.

Thanks for being you!

—Sandy Corenblum, Calgary

YUP, that really made my day! Then there is this note I just received from Sandy in response to the Thich Nhat Hanh quote on happiness:

WE HAVE an expression in Judaism which says: "Serve G-d with happiness!"

I believe that one must commit to that expression every day and find one thing that makes him/her happy on a daily basis. Sometimes just seeing water come out of the tap fills me with happiness. We are so fortunate.

Recently at a graduation of former students, I received an extra big dose of happiness upon hearing the graduates speak of their hopes and dreams for the future and of making the world a better place. My heart was dancing and my face was locked into a magical smile from the sense of joy I received upon hearing their speeches. This was a great gift of happiness for me: voices raised in unison with thoughts of a bright and sunny tomorrow. This is, indeed, enough to make anyone happy – knowing that tomorrow is in good hands.


I IMMEDIATELY wrote back and asked Sandy if she'd say more about staying happy when life is sort of blah. She replied:

I OFTEN make my own happiness when there is none immediately in view. I blow bubbles, chalk with colored chalk on sidewalks, write in my gratitude book on a daily basis, eat one piece of chocolate every day, go to nurseries to smell the flowers, observe young children to drink in their joy, watch at least one happy or uplifting movie a week, and do one thing just for ME – each and every day – like going for a walk or reading some poetry. I also try to share these special thoughts with as many people as I can.


SANDY'S nurturing of her inner self is fundamental, I believe, to the profit the rest of us derive from her peacefulness and happiness. Thanks, Sandy, for sharing these special thoughts with us.

© 2002 Warren Harbeck

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