Gallup poll results came out this week ranking the Happiest States in America. And despite the endless days of subzero weather and blizzards Minnesota ranked among the top Happiest States in America.
Big Stone County, the bump on the western edge of the MN, is kinda in the middle of the cluster of Happiest States in America- in green. Why do you think that is? Wide open spaces, 4-H, bowling leagues, highest per capita farmers, a "could be worse!" culture? Maybe it's our pleasant winters.
One small thing that makes me happy living in Clinton, MN is that my grocery bags are colored by the elementary kids- most of who I know. With messages about reduce, reuse and recycle. And the kids (Kindergarten through 6th grade) put a lot of effort into these bags, which turn out both beautiful and artsy!
I just love the children's art put into useful everyday items and then spread throughout the community-- again and again. And these bags can be and are used over again because they are too special to toss and you feel like you need to handle this child's art with care. I'm bringing all these bags back to the store for the next lucky customers. And frankly, that's something you might not be able to do in a large city. The grocery store might not take bags from some random person wanting them to be restacked at the checkout line and reused.
There was one bag I liked in particular--a watercolor with fall leaves and a message "Don't Litter. It Makes the world bitter." Imagine my delight when I found out that it was painted by one of my own sons. And it's no coincidence that I got that bag--Bonnie and Holly at the grocery store tucked that one away to make sure that my groceries would end up in it.
Let me tell you a little story about a Kindergartener whose name was on the bottom of one of the grocery bags. I make it a point to meet the bus every afternoon when it pulls up to the end of my ½ mile long driveway. One afternoon the bus pulled up and off jumped my two little boys and one of their friends, for a planned Friday sleepover. And then off of the bus comes the sweetest, cutest little 5 year old girl. I looked at the bus driver quizzically and he said she was to get off at our house.
Now, it was a completely blameless situation. The little boy was her brother and they had gotten on and off the bus at our house before. So when the bus driver saw the note giving the brother permission to get off at our farm, it made sense when the little girl, we'll call her Izzi, said she was to stick with her brother. And Izzi herself was quite convincing to the bus driver that she was to go to our farm with her brother.
But what an unexpected treat for me! My own Alma and I got to walk down the driveway with little Izzi - "1, 2, 3! SWINGing" Izzi up into the sunny sky. And once at home it was "Raise High the Roof Beams! Break out the Candy Land and Dust off the Barbies!" Can you imagine such luck and fun on a Friday afternoon out on the wide open prairie? Now Izzi's home is the absolute other side of the 40+ mile wide school district, so we had a nice block of time to play before someone came to pick her up.
So I invite you to try living in a world where the little things, the bag you get your groceries in, can bring such simple pleasure and invoke such sweet memories. A place where a child's hand crafted artful bag can make its way into your home and your life--occasionally accompanied by the child themselves (both on purpose and on 'accident'). To experience the delight of reading the names of each precious child on the bottom of your bag can bring smiles and a cry of delight.
And remember these messages from the children of Clinton-Graceville-Beardsley Elementary
• Recycle or your ecosystem will fall apart (reduce, reuse, recycle. Save me for Christmas)
• Recycle- Batman does
• When you toss out paper, you're killing trees. DO NOT toss out paper.... RECYCLE
• Go Green, Recycle, Recycle, Recycle
Maybe the Happiest Place on Earth isn't a place, or if it is a place, it might be a place that is small enough to care about. But wherever it is, it is about noticing and appreciating the small things.