The Happy Jar — How Little Things Can Mean a Lot

I just delivered a free speech. I am a great believer in free speech, but an even greater believer in paid speech. However, there are good reasons why someone like me would deliver free speeches. For instance, to support a charity or a cause I believe in. Or if the audience is full of people who hire speakers.

If you’ve ever spoken at a dinner or ran a workshop at a conference, you’ll wince when I mention the dreaded “token of appreciation” presented to the speaker. In your head you think, “Oh no, not another T-shirt.” I have my share of T-shirts, golf shirts, letter openers, books that do not interest me, sweets, ball caps, and pens. I don’t need any more.

Sigh. I suppose that’s the price of free speech.

Which brings me to my recent free speech, at the end of which I braced myself to face Dreaded Token. I was presented with a lovely gift bag brimming with colorful paper — the perfect camouflage to conceal Dreaded Token until he was ready to pounce. Mercifully, Madam Group President did not make me open the bag in front of everyone.

As I was preparing to leave, I sneaked a peak inside the bag. To my surprise, there was a candy jar with dozens of tiny plastic smiley faces glued to the lid. Around the lid were foam-rubber multi-colored letters that read “Happy Guy”. Wow! It was hand-made. Madam Group President took the time to craft a personal gift. How thoughtful. Dreaded Token, you have met your match. Meet Happy Jar.

If you have ever been a parent, valuing more the hand-made card your little daughter scribbles for you than any present she could buy, you know how I felt when I met Happy Jar. I can’t wait for my daughter to be old enough to draw so I can feel that way more often.

In life, little things really do count. You might be tempted to dismiss them, but they are the seeds that grow up into the garden of your life. Not all little things are good, but yours can be … if you are willing to make a small effort. Madam Group President could have handed me a T-shirt or a ball cap or leftover fruit cake from last Christmas. (Yes, I was once presented with left-over fruitcake.) But she invested her effort instead and I have something wonderful to write about today.

You can make someone’s day just by making that same little effort. I sent an encouraging e-mail to lift a friend’s spirits today. It worked. Those carefully chosen words brought her mood right back up. I’m sure you can guess how great that made me feel, too.

When Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of the epic This Is The Place raved to me about the writing in my book, I felt on top of the world. (It’s not the huge $75 royalty checks every three months that inspire authors to write.) She then raved to and and a dozen other book review web sites. Do I have to tell you how her little extra effort made me feel?

I know I am blessed to be surrounded by so many thoughtful people, but I also know that we reap what we sow. What are you sowing? Are you making the time to give a little extra to people around you? Are you sowing seeds of happiness in your garden of life?

With the right seeds and a little extra effort, you may find more Happy Jars in your life than Dreaded Tokens. And of course, let us not forget the magic words to keep those Happy Jars coming: “Thank you Madam Group President.”

About the Author

David Leonhardt is the Happy Guy, motivational speaker and author of “Climb your Stairway to Heaven: the 9 habits of maximum happiness”. Sign up for your free “Daily Dose of Happiness” at, or visit the Self-actualization Resource Center at

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