08/01/2012 12:46 pm ET Updated Oct 01, 2012

So Good, It's Gotta Be True

It must be something in the water, or the air, but people in Sheridan, Wyo. are consistently friendly in the most pleasant of ways. I haven't figured it out yet and keep thinking that maybe its only the handful of folks that we've met... but then we meet some more people, and they smile and welcome us, and the circle expands. So, yes, I'm beginning to think there's something strange and wonderful going on here.

This morning, we walked into the local bagel shop where three bright-eyed young women immediately grinned and greeted us with "Good Morning!" Somewhat taken aback and still craving my morning coffee, I asked, "Is everyone here in Sheridan always so friendly, or is it just that we've been lucky since arriving a day ago?"

To my astonishment, they replied, "Nope, pretty much everyone here is really friendly all the time." And then, perhaps in response to the incredulity on my face, one of the young women explained, "I'm not from here originally, and I did think that something was weird about the friendliness when I first arrived." Okay, so it's not just me.

Then, the she continued, "But you know, it's pretty great. There's a lot less drama here." And that was the moment of epiphany. What a wise young woman.

If everyone gets along, and not in that "pleasant on the surface but back-stabbing underneath" kinda way, then a community benefits at multiple levels. Happiness is contagious. We pick up on other people's emotions and then experience, if not broadcast those feelings. Just think about it for a moment: Don't you feel a lift in your own spirits when you encounter someone who is happy and bright? Or consider the reverse, it's a real downer to meet up with someone who's crabby and pessimistic.

The idea is that how each of us walks in the world impacts others. Sometimes life brings us really hard times, and there's no way to find happiness, nor should we. But that's when others can extend compassion and caring and allow us to rest a little and heal.

However, as a daily practice, going through life with a little joy and big smile sure does make the day a pleasure. To my astonishment, that's how people here in Sheridan seem to function. And to my even greater astonishment, their friendliness seeps into my reticence, and all of a sudden I find myself basking in the warmth of my own friendliness. Perhaps that's the greatest reminder of all, that positive emotions are the most beneficial for the person who generates them.

Grandparents know this when they tell the little ones that "the greatest joy is in the giving." When we're really young, it seems hard to grasp this nugget of gold because receiving is such fun. But pretty soon, with mindfulness, we realize that giving of ourselves (as well as material goods, life opportunities, and other things) is what really brings pleasure. Once you try it, you know. And then, it's easy to get into the habit of giving just as those young women we met this morning seem to do, even if only by offering greetings and gladly providing an extra bag (and generous qualities of butter) for the bagels!

So, Sheridan, Wyo., I give you my thanks for reminding me of the joy of giving, and the pleasure of finding happiness in the little things and briefest of gentle interactions. There is less "drama" here and the energy of the day does seem to renew rather than deplete as time goes by. There's something to the notion that reducing conflict and lubricating social interaction with friendliness is natural and constructive.

Some folks, more cynical than I, might dismiss this love song for Sheridan as just another hyperbolic country western melody. But, I'm thinking maybe some of those sappy songs aren't hyperbole at all. Maybe the people who wrote and perform them actually come from places like Sheridan. Maybe, just maybe, the rest of us can learn to listen a little more closely and share the joy of living a little more easily, each and every day.

For more by Deborah Schoeberlein, click here.

For more on mindful living, click here.