Thursday, October 18, 2012
An Experiment in Happiness
Thursday I was watching "Katie" ie. Katie Couric show and it was about trying to find happiness or being happy. One of the things they talked about was how giving rather than getting can make you happy.
Now I've always believed this to be true and I could always use a little happiness in my life so.... I went to my local Starbucks and bought a $20 gift card. I explained to the cashier that I would like her to use my card to pay for the next few people that came in to get coffee... But not to tell them it was me, just that someone wanted to "pay it forward."
I sat nearby looking like I was busy working on my iPad but really listening and taking notes on what happened. I was not sure how this experiment would go. People here in north Virginia are for the most part privileged and seem to feel entitled so I was eager to see what would happen.
I went just before 11:00 am so that it wouldn't be too busy. The first couple of people that came in were all women in their 50's and 60's. It took each of them a minute to understand what was happening and it seemed to brighten their day a bit. One of them did ask "So should I do the same thing?" At first it sounded like she felt obligated but she genuinely seemed pleased.
After them a young girl walked in. I guess she was either in her late teens or early 20's. She ordered a hot chocolate. When the cashier told her it had already been paid for she just shrugged her shoulders, took her hot chocolate and left. Ah youth! This was what I was afraid would happen.
The next people made up for it though. It was two women (60's?)together and once they got over their disbelief they were just tickled. Immediately after them a couple came in ~ man and women maybe late 60's. They were just amazed and then asked the two previous women if they were they ones who had paid. They said "no" but the four of them stood there chatting very animatedly. From their conversation I got the idea they were thinking of doing the same thing in the future.
So, that was my experiment. Did it make me happy? Not exactly. I would say I was pleased with the outcome. Did it make the people receiving the free coffee happy? Maybe a little. I'll tell you who it made happy .... Angela, the cashier at Starbucks. Every time she got to tell someone their order was already paid for she broke out in a tremendous grin. I think she was basically a happy person to begin with but this seemed to really make her day. So now that I think of it, making her happy did make me happy so I'd have to say my experiment was a success.