“IF I KNOW YOU ARE COMING AT FOUR… AT THREE I BEGIN TO BE HAPPY”

“IF I KNOW YOU ARE COMING AT FOUR…
AT THREE I BEGIN TO BE HAPPY”
 For decades, I’ve loved those words from The Little Prince, the enchanting novella written and illustrated in 1943 by Antoine de Saint-Exupery, the French aristocrat, writer, poet and pioneering aviator. I first read it, one of the best-selling books ever published, when I was a sophomore in college. I’m sure you read it, too - and probably have your own favorite quote. “You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed…” is a good one. And so is, “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”
Okay, speaking of sophomore year, am I the only one who thought it was tough, or did you think so, too? Do you remember how you’d thought you knew “who you were,” what you were “doing here” and how it would all “add up” and then suddenly you hit sophomore year and you arrive at this wretched conclusion that you have absolutely no idea about any of it. I remember one day being so unsettled by how much I didn’t know, how much was up in the air and out of my control; that I had nothing concrete to wrap my arms around…that I just started running down a hill outside my dorm – to nowhere in particular – as fast as I could. And then I ran up the next hill – and down again.  (It was a beautiful rural campus in Virginia…there were plenty of hills.) And finally, totally out of breath, I ran up to a tree, threw my arms around it and after a few moments, plopped down underneath it. I pulled out a book from my shoulder bag. It was The Little Prince. I opened it to the page where the wise fox who has become a friend of the little prince says those simple, lovely lines…”If I know you are coming at four…then at three I begin to be happy.”
Maybe that’s what it’s about, I thought. Maybe it’s that simple. Maybe it’s just about listening and talking, and really liking somebody – even if you’re a “prince” and he’s a “fox” – and knowing when it’s time to start to be happy. After awhile, I said goodbye to the tree, gathered myself up and jogged down the hill. I started whistling…
Of course, life – like sophomore year – isn’t always that simple. It gets all cluttered up – with doubts (“what if he doesn’t come at 4?”) with fears (“what if we are no longer friends?”) and with other “obligations” (“I’m sorry I can’t be there at 4. I have to be somewhere else…”) But maybe it’s simpler than we make it. Or maybe, simpler than we allow it to be. Maybe we can take a look at those moments that make us really, really happy and decide to be happy before they actually happen. Okay, here’s one of mine: When the sun starts to come up and light begins to fill my bedroom, Willa, our Golden Retriever, jumps up on the bed to cuddle. She likes to lie on top of me and lick my face…very thoroughly. She weighs 78 pounds but I don’t care. And she has “morning breath” but I don’t care. So when I open one eye and see a hint of light outside, I think, “Well, it won’t be long ’til Willa shows up”…and I go from thinking how tired I still am…to smiling. I’m smiling now, actually.
Here’s another: I’m sitting at a table in our favorite neighborhood restaurant and I know that within 10 or 15 minutes, everybody I love best (except Willa) will be sitting there with me – Kate, Abigail and Kate’s husband, David – and I start to be happy. I think about how the waiter will make a fuss over us, how we’ll order what we always order and how rich (and always entertaining) the conversation will be. I’m happy now just thinking about it. (And hungry.) Hey, I could think of a whole bunch of other “moments,” too, now that I’m on a roll. I bet you could, too… 
So I guess this is the lesson: Know what makes you happy. But don’t wait til that thing “happens.” Decide to be happy ahead of time…by just thinking about it. And don’t overcomplicate it, don’t make it hard (like sophomore year…) You don’t need to know how it’s all going to turn out, you don’t have to be perfect, you don’t even have to know who you are or what you’re doing here. Or…how it’s all going to “add up.”  But you do need to know what makes you happy. Envision those moments, wrap your arms around them…and begin to be happy. Now.
Here’s a charming picture, drawn by the author himself, of those two very good friends, the little prince and the fox…who knew when to begin to be happy. 

 

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