How to find Happiness in the Dark

Right after I read the story, I go looking for an old horn to screw right to the wall.

There are things worth the proclaiming, you know?

And after I find one, I walk around the house with the horn in hand trying to figure if it looks best on this wall? Or the back of this door? The Farmer raises his eyebrows.

“A horn on a wall?” He’s grinning boyish. Joshua is playing scales. Levi’s reciting Latin chants. Shalom and Malakai are arguing loud over a game of chess.

“Because you’re thinking it’s not quite loud enough in here yet?”



“You!” I tease, poke him in the shoulder, him broad like a beam that carries half my world.

“Does it look right here?”

“I think I’ve got a wall out in the barn it might look perfect on.” He winks, shields himself with his arm to fend off the next poke.

“But if you knew the story….” He nods, knowing, smiling, “Uh huh.” Stories can turn around whole hard hearts. Jesus walked backroads and spun stories and turned around lives and the axis of the cosmos.

I tell the story at lunch.

“So I read it this book … a true story.“ I pass down the squash. “A man drove a stretch of highway past this tattered cardboard sign that read just this:

Honk if you’re happy

And who doesn’t roll his eyes at such naivete? As if the world is this strange hybrid of Pollyanna and Sesame Street — if you’re happy and you know it, honk, honk — when it’s really just a strange new, old world, broken and a mess.

Shalom offers me her glass and I pour her water.

“But there’s this one day when the guy in the book drives past the sign with his little girl, and on a whim, he beeps the horn.

And every day, when he passes the sign, his daughter begs him to do it again, and pretty soon, every time he’s on this stretch of highway, this jaded man, this cynical man’s anticipating the sign. Anticipating honking his horn. And do you know what he said?”

I want to make sure I get it right. I push back my chair, to get the book off my night stand.

Flip through the pages… There.

“And just for a moment… I felt a little happier than I had before — as if honking the horn made me happier

If on a one-to-ten scale, I was feeling an emotional two, when I honked the horn, my happiness grew several points… In time, when I turned on to Hwy 544, I noticed that my emotional set-point would begin to rise.

That entire 13.4 mile stretch began to become a place of emotional rejuvenation for me.”

I lay the book down on the table, reach for the water pitcher.

“See what happened to him? The sign said, “Honk if you’re happy. And he discovered that the act of honking the horn — it made him happy. It’s not honk if you’re happy. It’s honk TO BE happy.”

“Honk, Honk!” Malakai grins at the end of the table.

His mouth’s full of food.

I love him wild.

“So who puts up a cardboard sign beside a highway: “Honk if you’re happy”?”

I have to get to the rest of the story before the table erupts into a fest of honking Canadians.

“This man’s got to find out. So he finds a house on the other side of the trees that line the highway —- and he goes up to the door and asks the folks if they know anything about the happy sign?

And the man at the door welcomes him in and says yes, yes, he made the sign.” Malakai’s grinning, his cheeks right full.

“And this is why he made the sign: Because he was sitting there everyday in his house, sitting there in a darkened bedroom with his young wife who was terminal, sitting there watching her every day, as she lay there waiting to die.

And one day when he couldn’t really take it anymore, he painted up that sign and stuck it out by the road. Because, he said —- I reach for the book again, to find the right page, to get the words right:

“I just wanted people in their cars not to take this moment for granted.

This special, never-again-to-be-repeated moment with the ones they care for most should be savored and they should be aware of the happiness in the moment.”

I look around at all their faces ringing the table, the jewel of them slipping around me in this space.

Light’s falling across the table.

Hope’s one strand of loose hair is it’s own gold.

Something inside of me trumpets loud and long.

I can only whisper the end of the story.

“At first, after he put out the sign, there was only a honk here and there. His dying wife asked what that was about and the husband explained how he’d put the sign out there.

After a few days, there was more honking and more… And the husband said that the honking…”

I look down again at the book but everything’s blurring. Finally the line surfaces…

.. that the honking, it became like medicine to her.

As she lay there, she heard the horns and found great comfort in knowing that she was not isolated in a dark room dying.

She was part of the happiness of the world.

It was literally all around her.

The happiness was literally all around her.

God is literally all around us.

So much light’s falling across the table.

“I think that horn of yours, it will look best in that doorway.”

The Farmer winks.

And when The Farmer heads out to the shop after lunch, I call after him — Remember to bring in a screwdriver! So we can hang the horn.

And he waves back to me as he runs across the farmyard.

And when I’m standing in the kitchen, wiping off the counters, I hear it clear, from the farm pickup parked out in the laneway, out by the shop: Honk! Honk! Honk!

I laugh! He’s out there honking the horn of his truck!

I turn to the window, laughing…. He’s happy! Happy

And I reach for my pen laying on my open gratitude journal there on the counter.

“Honk if you are happy” is in reality: “If you want to BE happy, honk.”

And “Give thanks IF you are happy” is in reality:

If you want to be happy — give thanks.”

Giving thanks is what gets you joy. 

Everyone gets to decide how happy they want to be. Because everyone gets to decide how grateful they are willing to be.

Waiting till you’re happy before you give thanks, is like waiting to be healthy before you take your vitamins. Vitamins are what make you healthy. Giving thanks is what makes you happy. Giving thanks is the way we awaken to the presence of God all around us and only in His presence is fullness of joy. Giving thanks is what gets you joy.

It’s taking me a lifetime to get it: 

Joy isn’t a function of what happens.

Joy is a function of what I think.

Joy is a function of how I thank. 

And I write it down in that gratitude journal which is really my attitude journal, “The farmer honking a horn — and that grin of his.”

This has become like medicine to me.





Shalom waves to the Farmer from the window. He’s waving back at her.

She sings the words quiet to him, “Honk, Honk!” — honk to BE happy — and she knows he can’t hear.

But all the world is heaven’s clarion and even in the dark, we are surrounded by it — by all the happiness of the world.

Honk to be happy.

Give thanks to get joy.

I keep the journal close, the thanks ready.

Quite literally?

He’s all around us.



An Excerpt from:

One Thousand Gifts Devotional Journal: Reflections on Finding Everyday Graces

60 fresh & releasing devotional reflections, each one like a singular tree, invite you to take wing into a forest of graces. 60 Days of Devotional Reflections. 60 Days to Joy. Practical. Profound. Pen-worthy: includes the only numbered 1000 gifts journal, space for you from #1-#1000, to begin the radical habit of thanking God for your own one thousand gifts. Perfect for spring?

Join us? And happily change everything by keeping your own crazy list of One Thousand Gifts? Dare you to Joy! Take the dare to Fully Live!
1. Grab this month’s Free JOY DARE Calendar with 3 daily prompts to go on a scavenger hunt for God’ gifts … {or write down any gifts you choose. Use the free app.} 2. Count 3 gifts a day and you have over #1000gifts in 2013. Jot them down in the new numbered One Thousand Gifts devotional journalThe Farmer’s writing in his with a red pen and daily – the numbers in the journal already there! Motivating… 3. Share your gifts everyday in our beautiful Facebook community to enter everyday for the monthly $100 Amazon draw (or link to your blog post with your list of gifts). 4. Count #1000gifts in 2013 and enter to win a Nikon DSLR camera with lens. Slow Down. Savor Life. Give thanks. Believing something is one thing. But the Best only comes when you decide to Be Living it. Please, jump in, make your life about giving thanks to God! — Just add the direct URL to your specific 1000 gift list post… and if you join us, we humbly ask that you please help us find each other in our refrain of thanks by sharing the community’s graphic within your post.
Give thanks to the Lord! His Love Endures Forever!

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