I met a man the other day whose sunny manner seemed to say
That he had found the happy way.
I asked the secret of his smile, and he answered somewhat in this style:
Six things have I that spell content, six things that mean a life well spent,
That makes for an accomplishment.
A peaceful mind, a grateful heart, a love for all that’s true,
A helpful hand, real tolerance, and lots of things to do.
– “The Way to Happiness”, by G.W. Grafflin
Because the cover of the small spiral notebook is dark brown it is hard to read the handwritten words across the top, but if examined closely you can make it out, “Good and Tried Recipes”. Inside on every single page, almost every line in fact, in the same handwriting are delicious recipes of every sort from salads to sweets, except for the last two pages on which each recipe is carefully listed into a numbered index. There are forty-three of them to be exact – breads, rice dishes, cookies, pies, meatloaf, you name it. Among them, though, one stands out. Listed as number one in the index it is the little poem you just read appearing on the very first page just inside the front cover. In the index she calls it the “Recipe for Happiness”.
The neat little handwritten recipe book was the handiwork of my great Aunt Jenny, my grandmother’s older sister and only sibling. Aunt Jenny was a constant in our family, living next door to my grandmother until my grandfather’s death after which they moved in together. Actually her name was Janie not Jenny, Janie Boyle to be exact, and was respectfully addressed as Miss Janie by the local citizens and the children where she taught elementary school for over fifty years. But we in the family knew her affectionately as Aunt Jenny.
That little brown spiral notebook, one of my most cherished possessions, represents a perfect summary of Aunt Jenny’s life – meticulous, organized, frugal, and an excellent cook as you might expect. She loved to learn as much as she loved to teach, was an avid reader, a consummate student of the world and of life, and a person of strong convictions and deep faith. Although she appeared serious most of the time she actually had a rather dry sense of humor, knowing when and how to laugh about life. Mostly, though, Aunt Jenny understood the “Recipe for Happiness” and lived her life by its exact formula – “a peaceful mind, a grateful heart, a love for all that’s true, a helpful hand, real tolerance, and lots of things to do”. It is a “good and tried recipe” as she labels it, and perhaps the best lesson she ever taught.