04/11/2009 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Spewing Joy: The Supermarket Shuffle

Readers, what a joy you are! In fact, priceless. As usual, your responses have been heart-warming, contagious. Last week, one of you said something that's taking on a life of its own. ("In These Times, Why Not Dance?") So much so that I've taken on your pledge of "spewing more joy." I propose we join together in this literal and figurative dance of random acts of joy-spewing! Maybe we could call it the "Spewing Joy Line Dance"? Let me know what you think!

Spewing Joy Today.
As I set out before dawn today, wondering where I might find an opening for this project, opportunity presented itself in an unexpected place. Joy is funny, that way. Perhaps 'joy' is a sort of pixie, sprinkling joy moments all around, if we've got 'eyes to see,' and 'ears to hear.' Odds are increased if we are willing to step out of the bad news pandemic, these days. Today's unexpected Joy Spewing began while standing in the check-out line at Safeway on 85th.

Scene of the Spewing.
Kim, a 28-year-old young woman was standing behind me, looking down at her shoes. Four folks stood in front of me, as we waited for our turn with the checker. No one was talking. One guy was glancing at the National Enquirer. "It beats the news," he mumbles. Kim looks at me, with this expression of doom and gloom. I ask whether there's anything I can do? Right away, she tells me that she's having a bad hair day. (As my family will attest, people tell me their stories no matter where I am.) Apparently, Kim's application for nursing school's been turned down. Clearly, in fear, she's interpreting this news to mean she' somehow fatally flawed. "Perhaps, this is not the program for you," I suggest. Having been a Nurse Practitioner, myself, I am well aware that every program has its own bent. "But, if they won't take me, probably nobody will." Dejected, she rejected any hope of finding a human being at the college who might steer her in a productive direction. You and I know it's a short downward spiral, with this attitude.

Kim, like many of us during times of disappointment, is living out her dance of fear. In Fear Dance mode, we contract, pull in, and miss the present opportunity. I ask Kim whether she'd like to hear a true story about a student like herself. She nods. Now, this particular young lady was a student in Professor George Crane's social psychology course at Chicago's Northwestern University. It became clear to Crane that his student was feeling disheartened. Using this as a teachable moment, Professor Crane designed what he called the Compliment Club. Students were assigned a 30-day-project of giving 3 compliments/day and asked to track the results. Not surprisingly, his students found the practice not only valuable to their recipients, but it had an even greater positive effect on them! Today, we know from increasing research that positive, generous acts create a healing effect for receiver, giver, and witness. A fact, I'm sure, George Crane would love, because his 'club' was started nearly 100 years ago!

Giving Feels Good
Its great medicine for what heals, and it goes down well. By now, Kim is in full-blown grin-mode. "Oh, now that's something I can do!"
"Great," says I, "Let's see if you can help us out. I shared our "Spewing Joy" project. By now, she's laughing. "So what kind of dance fits our project right now?" I asked Kim.
"I took tap-dancing when I was little. How about this 'shuffle double step?'" On the spot, my new friend puts her arm on my shoulder, ala Rockettes style, and does a little kicking action. I join her, right in front of God and the Express Line. The woman in front of me, probably in her early 70's, turns around and says with a smile from beneath her crimson red crochet hat: "Oh, I used to love to dance, but I'm too old!"
I couldn't resist: "How old is too old to dance?"
With furrowed brows, she looks at me, pauses, and puts her arm on my other shoulder. "No one ever told me," she says. "Let's roll!"
By now, the guy in a Mariners' baseball hat in back of Kim, somewhere in his 20's, joins in our chorus line community. Yes, some people look at us like we we're nuts. Others, smile, and one man whistles. There was even a little round of applause. That, however, did not matter. In 63 years, I've never had so much fun buying veggies. I'm telling you, 'Spewing Joy' is where it's at!

The fact is that Kim's willingness to step out of her self-imposed spell of fear and negativity, dancing her way back to life, was contagious. No matter how much we might be worried about being on the global economy's good ship Titanic, no matter how much we might prefer to rearrange the deck chairs, rather than take a risk in the moment, we are still at choice. We can seize the moment and dance, like Kim and troupe, or we can wallow away as curmudgeons. The latter choice is not likely to attract what our hearts' desire.

Naturally, before we parted ways, I gave Kim three compliments. O.K., truth is told, six: #1. She's courageous, willing to tell the truth to a complete stranger.
#2. She's open.
#3. She's willing to join into something new, risking disapproval.
#4. She's patient.
#5. She's great at welcoming others into spontaneous community.
#6. She's got a fabulous, magical smile.

I'd say this young woman's got good odds for an engaging future on the road that's right for her. It may not be nursing, but, hey? Who says that there's only one way to help advance well-being? By the way, she told me she's forming her own chapter of the Compliments' Club.

How about you? I'd love to hear any of your 'spewing joy' experiences, wishes, stories, and anything else besides. Come by again. You are priceless, my dear.