My Breakfast Lesson: You’ve Got to Give Joy to Get Joy

This morning I was at my favorite table at a local restaurant when an elderly couple walked in. They both had gray hair and the woman was wearing a soft pink sweater under her coat.  I noticed when they got in line that they were holding hands. It touched my heart. I watched them for a while, thinking about my own future.

I spoke to the manager and told her that I wanted to secretly pay for the couple’s breakfast. “Just tell them someone anonymous was in a low mood today and watching them being so affectionate with one another lifted my spirits.”

When the manager told them the news, I pretended to be engrossed in my writing. From the corner of my eye, I could see the couple looking around trying to figure out which of the many patrons was the mysterious person who paid for their meal. In truth, it gave me a warm fuzzy feeling to do it, to honor them for the joy they’d given me.

Giving not only benefits the receiver but also the giver. It’s an activity that makes us realize we’re all connected. That connection plays a big part in making the world a wonderful place to be, whichever end you’re on. I know I always feel happy when I’ve done something nice for someone, so I actively look for opportunities to give. 

It doesn’t matter what you do for someone else or the economic value of what you give. Just take the initiative and perform an act of kindness for someone and notice how you feel. And the best way to give to someone is without expectation that you will get something in return.

The reward for giving or an act of kindness is a simple but powerful sense of joy. When I do something nice for someone, I hear the lyrics of the late, great Louis Armstrong in my head: “And I think to myself, what a wonderful world.”

Once I was at a departure gate at an airport in Dallas, waiting to go back home to New York. I was having a conversation with three Marines who had just returned from Iraq when the gate agent informed them that she had tried to get them an upgrade to first class, but unfortunately there were no seats available. Flying coach was such a trivial concession that it was an easy decision to make. 

You should have seen the looks on all three Marines’ faces when two other passengers and I gave up our first class seats as a gesture of appreciation for their service. It goes without saying that the looks on those soldiers’ faces were well worth giving up a little leg room, but you should have seen the look on our faces when we deplaned and saw all three Marines standing at attention saluting us! 

What you give from your heart comes back to you in one way or another. To have more joy, make the activity of giving a habit. Watch for opportunities to give—they are all around you. Whether you return the shopping cart to the stall for the busy mother, hand a homeless person $10 and a sandwich, or honor someone for just being them (like the dear old couple this morning), the act of giving benefits you just as much as the person to whom you give.

Want more abundance, joy and the sense that it’s a wonderful world in your life? Give more.


Steve Rizzo is the Attitude Adjuster. You can’t attend one of his keynote speeches and leave with the same attitude. He’s a personal development expert, comedian, motivational speaker, and best-selling author. It’s no surprise that he’s been inducted into the Speakers Hall of Fame, an honor bestowed upon on fewer than 250 speakers worldwide since 1977. You can find out more at

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