Mary Ellen Michael rescued a starving cat, more than six months after it was lost on Catoctin Mountain near Frederick, Md.
What makes a person happy? Regardless what the experts say, it's often something very simple: a good laugh, a good deed, or just a good dinner. Memories like this can stick around for decades — a freeze-frame, where, sometimes just for the blink of an eye, everything seems perfect. Using WAMU 88.5's Public Insight Network, we asked listeners for stories of moments that made them happy.
Leta Hall, of Silver Spring, Md., remembered a childhood moment, from decades earlier:
"When I was a little girl, my father was in the Navy and was serving in Vietnam. One day my mother told me and my sister that Dad was coming home for a 'visit.' Normally I wouldn't disbelieve my mother, but I was so afraid of being disappointed that I chose to believe that she was mistaken rather than get my hopes up. When I walked through the door and saw him standing there, I burst into tears. It's the only time I can think of when I cried for joy."
Dori Bailin, of Frederick, Md., recalled a moment where she made someone else happy:
"Several years ago I was teaching kindergarten in D.C. Public Schools. A child brought pitted black olives to school in his lunch. As he started to eat them, I chirped in, 'Sweetie, that's not how you eat black olives. You need to put one on each finger tip and pop them off into your mouth, one at a time.' Of course, we both giggled as he followed directions. The next day his mother came in with that, 'I know my kid is lying,' tone of voice and she related that, at dinner, her child showed her the 'proper' way to eat olives and 'blamed' it on me. I had to confess. Luckily, she was a good-humored mom, and we had a nice relationship so we all had a good giggle."
Mary Ellen Michael, of Thurmont, Md., related a more recent moment, which brought joy to herself, a stranger, and a starving cat:
"A flyer for a lost cat was in my mailbox, and I saved it on the fridge for about a month. I considered recycling it after that, as I was sure the cat was either back home or there was not much hope. However, having had a lost cat myself for 6 months before finding him, I decided to keep the flyer for a while longer but I put it away in a stack of other papers. Another three or four weeks passed when I found a scraggly cat in my yard. The weather was very cold and the poor animal was clearly starving. I initially completely forgot about the flyer. I gave the starving fellow some food and got a better look at him. Suddenly the cat in the flyer popped into my head. The flyer described the cat with an extra toe on its paws and sure enough this little guy had extra toes. I called him by name, Buster, and he nearly leaped into my arms. Then I knew I had the right cat. I called the owner who was amazed that his beloved cat was alive and almost well. He came to the house to pick him up and the reunion was just too sweet. Buster is a loving kitty and I enjoyed my few hours in his company but the joy that emanated from him when he saw his owner was palpable. Since then, I have heard from the owner that Buster is recovered and doing very well."
[Music: "Shiny Happy People" by Piano Tribute Players from Piano Tribute to REM / "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" by Hans Mellow from Organ Melodies Vol. 3]