The Last Day of Class

When I was a senior in high school, we had a teacher who gave us a lesson in finding happiness that still resonates today. On the last day of class before graduation, she gave us each a balloon.

We were instructed to blow ours up and write our names on it.

It was a warm Spring Ann Arbor day, so the teacher invited us to head outside for the next part of the lesson. She had us toss our balloons onto the classroom floor as we left.

“I’ll share a secret that we don’t teach in the classroom,” she said as we circled around her on the soft grass. “Our rewards in life will always be in direct proportion to our contributions. We get what we give.”

It was the first time I heard what I would learn later was one of Earl Nightingale‘s favorite gems.

She gave us several examples. President Kennedy’s Peace Corps was one I still remember.

Then we went back into the classroom and were given sixty seconds to find our own balloons.

Naturally, very few of us did.

Then the teacher gave us another sixty seconds. “Grab any balloon and take it to the person who’s name is on it. Go!”

In less than a minute, every balloon was in the hands of it’s owner.

“These balloons are a metaphor for happiness,” she said. “It’s hard to find on our own. But if we endeavor to help others find theirs,  our purpose in life can be revealed. Purpose leads to passion. And money has a magical way of appearing when you are engaged in doing what you love.”

“If you remember nothing else about high school, remember this,” she said, writing a single sentence on the blackboard that has stuck with me to this day.

“Help others find their happiness, and your happiness will find you.”