Signs of Happiness

As part of the Swap Meet Project organized by Macon Reed, I completed a collection of signs of happiness that I collected from the daily newspaper.

Below is the letter I wrote to the person with whom I swapped assignments with.

To my instigator of happiness,

On the week of April 9th I received my Swap Meet assignment from you. I was to start a collection of happiness. My directions read as follows:

start a collection of signs of happiness.
collect something each day until the swap meet-
this could be anything, a photograph,
something found, cut out from the newspaper,
a quote, etc. and label with the date
ps. there are no rules.

I was instantly overcome by how difficult I believed it would be to find a sign of happiness in my daily life. But I was more struck with how difficult I found the prospect of your suggestion to find happiness in the newspaper.

April 9th I began my task of reading the newspaper looking for happiness. At first I scanned the paper. I was desperately looking for “happy‚”, “happiness‚”, “happily‚”. I scanned the whole thing. Not a trace. I felt vindicated in my negativity. But determined that I had no other place to find happiness I began to read the paper more thoroughly than I had in my entire life. Every word, every article, every horoscope, every obituary. I even read the financial section to find happiness. On that first day I found the word happy in a quote from a survivor of a flood. He was just happy to be alive.

Many of the days I found the word happy when people were quoted. “We're both profoundly happy,‚” announced a Canadian politician about the news of his wife's pregnancy. Another day I found happy in a quote that read, “You think we are happy with this verdict? We are not happy‚”. This was in an article about two private school boys found innocent in an alleged rape. Another day I found “happy” quoted in relation to a Knut the German polar bear. What is “happy‚” anyways the article asked? I found happiness in the financial section one day. It was the biggest typeface I found throughout my collection. It was in the in the title of a piece on how happy employees means more profits.

I talked to my friends each day about happiness and where I managed to find it in the news. Whether people were happy or not, what the context of my discovery was. Was it positive, or were people saying they were not “happy‚”. On Friday April 20, 2007 I read an article about an event that happened in my hometown of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. An elderly woman was crossing a set of train tracks on a busy street when here motorized mobility scooter over turned and pinned here to the tracks. A train was fast approaching.

This woman amazed me as she recounted her moments in front of the on coming train. She thought to herself “Oh no. My poor family, the poor engineer conducting the train.‚” I was amazed at this moment that this woman was so considerate of a strangers feelings, that she felt guilt that she was going to upset the trains conductor. She wished hard that someone would see her. She waved her arms frantically from beneath her scooter. A passing driver came upon the scene and ran from her car towards the woman. The train was now so close that she knew she only had one chance to pull the woman out from under her vehicle. She gave it everything she had and saved the woman in the process. The last lines of the article read as follows:

Right now there is so much
Violence and so many stories that
don't end well, this is one of the
happy endings.

When I told my friends that day about this they were all amazed by the story. A few of them said they felt it was too bad that it wasn't the last day of my project.

On April 20, 2007 I decided to stop my collection of happiness. The happy ending was not just that of the woman whose life was saved by a stranger, but also my own happy ending. This project has made me realize that it is not only possible to find signs of happiness in the daily news if you choose to see things from a positive angle, but also in my daily life.

Thank you sincerely for giving me this possibility,

Jennifer Delos Reyes

I Want To Hold Your Hand

Salvation Gallery, New York, NY

I wanted a physical manifestation of my relationships I have forged with others, people whose lives I have touched or whose lives have touched mine. I traced my hand in felt and set about contacting and reconnecting with people from my life to give them my hand, at this point I asked if they would like me to have their hand as well. If the feeling was mutual their hand was traced on a piece of felt for me and I would then cut it out and add it to stack of felt hands.

This collection of felt hands will be put on display for people to take. I hope through the weight of sentiment in each of these hands that when the viewer that takes one they will be able to feel the support and love of each of the contributors in this project who have all been loving and supportive in my personal life.

We Should Be Friends

Whenever I meet someone new and they give me their business card I always hope that what they are actually saying is “We should be friends.”

In response to this feeling and the uncertainty of the business card exchange I have made my own business cards, concerned only with the business of friendship. Now whenever I meet someone that I think is swell I give them my card, which has no information on it other than the declaration of impending friendship.