Dave Connell: Seeker & Teacher of Happiness
“How could anybody train me, at 81, to be happy? Sometimes you just have to make it.”
Like an extra pudding cup in a school kid’s packed lunch or a giddy secret, some things in life are just better shared. For Don, that thing’s happiness. He’s been giving it away for 81 years.
Maybe Dave’s rosy outlook came from years of working deep in the earth, in coal mining country, Pennsylvania. Or maybe Happiness 101 was the best lesson Dave ever taught in his 30 years as teacher.
Didn’t take long for Dave to find ways to bring light and life to fellow residents.
“Well I really love the people here,” Dave says. “And I guess I’m just popular. You make eye contact with somebody and then they tell you their whole life story.”
There’s a spark in Dave’s eyes that’s part mischief, part unguarded joy. It’s not hard to imagine him, 40 years ago, spending more time on the playground than the teacher’s lounge during recess.
Before the beginning of each school year, Dave would host a day of games and social time for his students. As classes go, there was always a shy one in the bunch. Dave noticed.
“Later, I’d say to the shy kid, ‘I’ve been watching you and you are really helping me. But there’s one thing I want you to work on…just one thing I would change. Do you want to know what that is?’ Well of course she wanted to know, so she’d ask what, and I’d say, ‘nothing…don’t change a thing,’” Dave says, eyes agleam.
Now, it’s the young kids — Dave’s description of his care team — impressing him all over again.
He leans in, voice lowered to let go a secret. “There is such a thing as cranky old people,” Dave says. “But these young people taking care of us here are really nice. Even if they just come by to fix the water spigot. They must have a secret way of picking people to work here. It really is the nicest place I’ve ever been.”
Dave’s found his happy place. A place where he can keep on sharing his light and love. And teaching others how to grab some of their own.
“They’re not going to spray it on you,” Dave says. “How could anybody train me, at 81, to be happy? Sometimes you just have to make it.”
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