A gentleman we can call Mr. Smith was the richest man in the small town in Tennessee where he had lived all of his life. He was not rich in money. He and his wife lived comfortably but carefully on social security and a small pension check. The wealth Mr. Smith enjoyed was quite different from the financial kind.
The days did not seem long enough for him to do the many things he enjoyed. He began each day by filling the feeders and water container for the birds. A neighbor once asked him why he bought so much bird seed on a fixed income. He com mented that he was well paid for the bird seed. The birds sat on the white picket fence, the porch rail, tree limbs and bushes, and they chirped, giving the Smiths a world filled with music. In this way, Mr. Smith received much more than he gave. His positive thoughts of loving life crystallized into the habit of enjoying each day’s activities and solidified into the beauty and sound in his world.
Each weekday morning, Mr. Smith walked two blocks to the handsome old Victorian house that housed SARC—The Seaton Association for Retarded Citizens—where he worked with the children. They were unable to attend regular school, but the center assisted each child toward reaching his potential. Although Mr. Smith was not a trained teacher, there was much he could do. With endless patience he helped little ones learn to tie a shoe or eat with a fork and spoon. Friends tried to tell the retired man that with his talent for this work he could certainly find a part‑time paying position. But Mr. Smith was paid a huge salary for his work with these youngsters—a tearful “thank you” from a mother and father, a bear hug from a tot overjoyed at successfully doing something on his very own, or a “God bless you” from one of the paid workers. Mr. Smith gave much to the children, but he received abundant personal blessings in return.
While Mr. Smith was at the center, Mrs. Smith worked in the chamber of commerce office, which helped the business and professional people in town. Money was not plentiful, so the office had only two regular people, the director and the office manager/secretary. Mrs. Smith gladly helped with mailings, copying, telephoning, filling the counter rack with town maps and postcards and other free literature. She even watered the plants. Mrs. Smith loved the office, because she was right in the middle of what was going on. She gave a lot of herself in that office, but she received so much back that it literally filled her heart with joy.
The couple also gave time to their children and to their grandchildren, and the Smith’s lifestyle was so inspirational it was reflected in their children. Their son was an accountant, who spent every Saturday morning at a senior center in his city helping seniors handle their money situations. No charge! His wife was a volunteer at the grade school their son attended. And the little boy was raising a puppy for the seeing-eye-dog group. Their daughter assisted five mornings a week at the town’s small hospital. Her husband, an insurance executive, was a member of the finance board at his church and worked many hours in this role. Their children were members of a youth group that visited a nursing home on Saturday mornings, listening, writing letters, combing hair, taking someone for a ride outside in a wheelchair. They gave and they gave. And received and received!
Every thought we allow into our mind can affect the thoughts, feelings, and actions we express. If we hold negative thoughts, our actions are likely going to be negative. In turn, negative habits might develop, and negative results may be returned to us. On the other hand, positive thoughts aid in developing positive habits and positive results, and life can become a happy, motivating adventure in which we see ourselves and others in the true light of what we really are—a wonderful, magical, mysterious expression of life. As long as our thoughts remain positive and are grounded in accomplishing the goal in front of us, the progress we make on the path of life can be steady and rewarding. Thoughts can crystallize into habits, and habits can solidify into circumstances in our life.
Overcoming bad habits may not seem so difficult if we remember that we are not the habit, rather the operator making choices that often result from our mental patterns. It is important to remember that a habit is not something we are, but something we do. Or, as one writer expressed it: “Habits are simply the behavioral extensions of well-established subconscious programs. . . The decision to change a habit is conscious, and our ability to change it directly relates to our skill in mastering our own subconscious mind”