Some of my favorite authors have an impeccable ability to paint pictures with their words. Roxanne Roberts is the author/artist who created this masterpiece, which actually involves paint, and I love it so much:
“Think of your life as a can of white paint. Each significant experience adds a tiny drop of color: pink for a birthday, yellow for a good report card. Worries are brown, setbacks gray. Lavender — my favorite color when I was a little girl — is for a pretty new dress. Over time, a color begins to emerge. Your personality.”
This week, I, and about 10,000 of my closest friends, added a few drops of red, white, and blue to our buckets of white paint as we all overtook Gas City Park on the 4th of July. The weather was perfection for this mid-summer Concerts in the Park/Fireworks Extravaganza. I don’t think it’s officially called an extravaganza, but it should be! It was a spectacular event with Adam Wakefield from The Voice opening for 80’s classic rock band .38 Special and a fireworks chaser. They were definitely Rockin’ into the Night!
And, as if that weren’t enough, they had Fair Food. Yes, yes, I know…this kind of food is so unhealthy! Only people with low cholesterol should even get in line. Nary an ingredient is part of any Weight Watchers program. But, it’s summer. For many, it’s vacation. And, there’s nothing quite like the smell of a fried elephant ear wafting through the summer air to make you feel like a kid again. Honestly, that aroma immediately takes me back to days of old when we didn’t have mortgages or BMI’s to worry about—all that mattered was truly enjoying the present. We were young.
I was talking to our CFO, Sherri Rush, today and reminiscing about dittos. Remember those? I know some of you are too young to remember dittos and I feel sorry that you missed out on them…seriously. Way back before copy machines, or at least before copies on such machines were economical, we made dittos. I remember these well from the History Department at Ball State University where I worked for four years typing a professor’s handwritten book about Roy Rogers and Dale Evans…but I digress. Dr. White had me do preparation for his history classes and that often included making copies. (Please feel free to say ‘makin’ copies’ like Rob Schneider on Saturday Night Live.) So, there was a ditto machine and some sort of liquid magic…I have no idea what it was or even how it worked. But, once your master copy was printed on special ditto paper and you cranked the machine, the liquid magic would make these beautiful purple copies for you. And, oh, did this smell good. Sherri and I both agreed that there was nothing quite as good as getting a worksheet from your teacher and having it still be a tad bit wet from the liquid magic. Then, everyone, and I mean everyone, in the entire class would take a long, deep breath just to smell the dittos. I know you young whipper-snappers reading this think it sounds crazy (and I guess it is), but this really happened in school classrooms across America. But, trust me, this nasal nostalgia is rather common.
It’s gonna get a bit sciencey here for a minute, but stick with me because I’ve done a good 10 minutes of Google research on the brain! You see, the olfactory system manages everything you smell. Out of all the senses, the olfactory system is the only one directly connected to the hippocampus in your brain. That’s really important because the hippocampus is like Grand Central Station for your long-term memory. So, recalling scents really does take us back to memories of different places and times. Think fresh baked bread, rain, or that awesome fragrance you smell as soon as you walk into Hobby Lobby! And, terrible smells can also be memorable, like skunks, middle school locker rooms, wet dogs, or your oldest tennis shoes. You can probably think of many smells that take you on a trip down memory lane. And science proves that this makes sense, or is it scents? ?
But, did you know that being generous has some of those same strong emotional memories? And, it’s backed by science, too! It’s officially called the Generosity Paradox wherein you get by giving. It’s that unexplainable feeling, far more valuable than the gift itself, of witnessing the true happiness of someone open a gift you picked out just for them. You carry that memory, that feeling, with you forever. And, you want more of it…you have a deep desire to re-create that feeling again, whenever possible. I can’t tell you how amazing we felt on graduation day last month when we presented our high school senior with a money cake! Dalton always said currency green was his favorite color! Not only that, our oldest son, Griffin, spent 6 hours making this cake! Six hours! That’s commitment for a sibling! It’s because he knows that feeling you have inside when you’ve given someone something they really want or need. The value of that is far more than the amount of money in this cake. Far more. That’s why it’s called the Generosity Paradox–on paper it doesn’t add up. But when you do it, you feel it—and there’s nothing quite like it.
I like to think this kind of radical giving splatters Grant County’s white can of paint with drops of the Scarlet red like the crayon you’d find in a 64-box of Crayola’s…the one with the built-in sharpener. And in my mind, it smells just as good.