New York Portrait sessions

By Amy Hackworth. Image by Justin Hackworth.

We have a family friend who is effusively cheerful. Every time we see him, he is all smiles, eagerly asking about our projects and our family. When our children are with us, he kneels to their eye level and asks genuine questions about their interests. He is enthusiastic and engaged. I’ve watched him interact this way with a roomful of people, offering equal amounts of cheer to every person he speaks with.

There was a time in my life when I would have found this sunniness just a little too bright for my taste. Could he really be that interested in everyone he talks to? Could he really be that happy?

But it’s obvious he’s not putting on an act. He’s genuinely and enthusiastically interested in people around him, and the temptation to question his cheerfulness ended when I realized how talking to him made me feel. It was great! I felt important and valued. I felt like I had interesting things to say. And I couldn’t keep from smiling. His cheerful glow seemed to transfer to me after our conversation, and I was more inclined to see the world as a rosy place. I liked it.

I haven’t yet found a way to match his kindness, but when I think of him, I am motivated to try. Sometimes I think of our friend when I’m checking out at the grocery store after a long afternoon, and I’m tired, and I’ve already made a second trip to the very back of the store because I forgot something the first time I thought I was ready to check out, and now I’m running late, and did I already mention I’m tired? And hungry?

The clerk offers a polite hello and sometimes I muster the energy that our cheerful friend has, and I answer genuinely, instead of replying with a meaningless “fine, thanks,” in a tone suggests otherwise. And I’m beginning to wonder if my friend has solved an interesting equation — by making other people feel good, something wonderful happens to us, too. When I choose cheerfulness, at the checkout or with my family, I stand up taller, I feel a surge of energy, and I’m genuinely interested in other people.

The clerk and I are chatting now. Soon we’re both smiling. I’m offering kindness, and it’s doing something for both of us.

What happens when you choose cheerfulness? And who are the cheerful people in your life? How do they make you feel?