It was an effective way to get our attention—a small package of chocolates delivered on the eve of Easter, “packed with sanitised hands”, with an introductory letter complete with details of their family, work and pets.
Over the following few weeks, amid the ongoing social-distancing restrictions, the 21 houses on our street have exchanged a number of letters and created a “Hope Fence”—including artworks by children and young people, messages of encouragement, jokes and an Anzac Day tribute—on the high wire fence of the public tennis court next to the community hall. While “isolated” like never before, our neighbourhood is growing closer together, thanks largely to the initiative of one family and with the invitation to a neighbourhood barbecue planned for when restrictions are eased.
Like many others, we know only a small number of our neighbours, despite having lived on our street for years. As we were considering what we might be able to contribute to this neighbourly exchange, I received the first copies of the new Pocket Edition of Live More Happy. It might not have been as instantly gratifying as our neighbour’s chocolates, but we decided to respond to the invitation to follow this first neighbourhood family’s example and write to our 20 neighbours to introduce ourselves. And we chose to include this little book as “something that Nathan has worked on in the past couple of months. As he was editing the original edition of this book, Nathan read it more closely than anyone else ever will (and quite a few times), and we have both found its ideas useful. . . . It seems that many of us could do with a little help with our emotional wellbeing and resilience at the moment—so [we] hope it might be of interest.”
Our personal introductions and recommendation make this more than junk mail—and offer opportunities for future conversations. And we have since received a few responses and thank-yous in our letterbox.
Like many neighbourhoods, appropriately distanced conversations and friendly waves in the past few weeks have been more common than previously, at least partly because we are at home and out walking more often.
But I appreciate the timing of the new small edition of Live More Happy. Of course, we have been working on this project over the past six months, but with the books available right now, it seems an important time to share this practical resource for wellbeing, feeling better, and seeking happiness and hope. And as I have been walking the dog up and down our street, I have also been praying for our neighbours and neighbourhood, as well as our nation and the wider world.
One of the challenges of this time is feeling like there is nothing we can do. But Live More Happy quotes Dr Martin Seligman—former president of the American Psychological Association—in asserting that doing something for others “produces the single most reliable increase in wellbeing (happiness) of any exercise we have tested”. The new Pocket Edition of Live More Happy is a resource for doing this, particularly at a time when some of our regular opportunities for serving are not available to us. So share this with your neighbours, write them a letter either introducing yourself or thanking them for being part of your community. This might be the lift that each of us needs and the opportunity to get to know more of our neighbours even while we are apart.
And if you haven’t yet read Live More Happy—that’s a great place to start. I recommend it.
Live More Happy (Pocket Edition) by Dr Darren Morton is available in a 5-book pack from Adventist bookstores in Australia and NZ.