Happiness in Life’s Little Things

by Mallary Tenore Tarpley

A few days before I graduated from Providence College, my friend Rebecca gave me a book called, “14,000 Things to Be Happy about.” The book has been sitting on my desk for the past couple months, but I haven’t cracked it open until now. Looking at the title of the book every day, though, has reminded me that the greatest things in life, the things that stir pure happiness, are often small and free of charge. I’m reminded of a Samuel Johnson quote: “It is by studying little things that we attain the great art of having as little misery and as much happiness as possible.” Thanks for the wise words, Sam.


Here are some of my favorite examples from the “14,000 Things to Be Happy About” book:

Furry booties that warm your feet like little ovens, having the ducks at the zoo eat the bread you’ve thrown to them, red-barn red, the Boston Children’s Museum, writing your memoirs, blue eyes, the exciting moment when you first look out the window to see what the snow has done, a pet stuffed frog, listening to someone describe something that makes them happy, sharing popcorn, coffee-flavored frozen yogurt, dancin’ in the moonlight, a photo collage, responding to challenge, David Letterman, silver beads, resting under a favorite tree, editing a magazine or article, keeping notes on life, pasta salad, free kittens, curling up, a rerun you haven’t seen since childhood, poetry in everything, butterflies migrating, two people listening to each other, cherry tomatoes, children just learning to talk, church bells, the ability to start over, July: National Ice Cream Month, lengthened life spans, diamond stars, plain cottage cheese, believing in yourself when no one else will, a warm May day, getting your point across, feeling the damp freshness of a Cape cod morning cool on your face, thin-lined (narrow) writing paper, the morning newspaper at the door, stopping being a perfectionist, notebooks with blank pages to be filled, girl reporters, alma maters, rewarding yourself, hours of climbing trees, carrying home 10 books from the library, sitting on a porch or bench reading The New York Times, zithers, writing long messages to out-of-touch friends, not having to pick up wet towels, friendship, the patter of rain, an underground railroad, cows with bells (or cowbells!), love of books, the splendor of fall, journalism, missing someone but knowing you’ll be together soon, the length of icicles, Italian menus, dining by the window, containers of homemade lemonade, being free-spirited, stone bridges, a painter’s workshop on Block Island, Rhode Island, sharing a book you read with someone, going roller skating on a Saturday, inheriting an island (does that really happen?!), Italian ice cream spoons, reading the newspaper, lunch boxes, Greenwich, Connecticut: “The Gateway to New England,” great elm trees, the song “If I Loved You,” from the movie and the play Carousel, glass beads, Central Park in winter, Pizza Hut restaurants, finding a newspaper someone left on the train when you were too cheap to buy one, free stuff from hotels, robins.

What makes you happy?