Tell Me About School Today, Sweetheart
Sam opened his front door and strode in. It had been a wintry day. He dropped his jacket and backpack, and kicked his shoes off before heading to his room.. Mom peeked into the room from the kitchen. “Tell me about school today, sweetheart.” Sam hurried past her to his room and replied, “Good.”
Sam met his little brother, Freddy, in the hallway, who was grinning and holding cars. “Wanna race with me, Sam?” Sam walked past and said, “Not today.” Disappointed, Freddy hunched his shoulders, and sluggishly went the other way.
A while later, Dad opened the front door too, and stepped inside. Freddy stood nearby, his eyes wet with tears. Dad crouched to Freddy's level and opened his arms for a hug. But Freddy refused to take it, and ran off in the other direction. Dad walked into the kitchen to greet Mom as she worked on dinner. “Can I help?” He eagerly asked.
She shrugged and said, “It’s almost done.”
At the dinner table, the family of four sat in silence and spun spaghetti on their forks. Their beloved dog Loni, laid next to the table, asleep. No one smiled. No one talked. No one seemed happy.
That night Sam laid in bed, unable to sleep. He had woken up in a bad mood and felt angry and upset the whole day. Before long, he became tired and drifted off to sleep.
Everything around him was dark, but yet small shapes came into view all around. Where was he? Everything around him was fuzzy. He realized he was outdoors somewhere, and just wore his space jammies. It was peaceful as snow cascaded all around. Sam looked down at his feet and realized… He was floating! What!? Far below, he saw a bright light. He was extremely high in the air. Heights terrified him. Sam gasped! And then he fell.
He felt the air whoosh around him as he fell down, like a roller coaster with no safety restraints! And just before he smashed into the roof of a building, he slowed and landed softly in front of it. It was his house. What was happening? It was still dark all around, but then a blinding light burst over the mountaintop and exploded with color. The sun peeked over the mountains.
A little boy opened the front door in the frozen morning, and paced towards Sam. He called out, “Stop!” Because the boy was going to run into him! And then he walked right through him. Ooh, weird feeling! Goosebumps covered his arms. Creepy! Sam turned around and then realized that the boy was… him? Sam walked away from him, but he was Sam too! How was this possible?
The other Sam was a yard away from him down the sidewalk. Sam turned towards him and ran to catch up to him. As he ran, he realized he wasn’t wearing the flip flops he had worn to bed. His bare feet didn’t make footprints in the newly fallen snow on the sidewalk like the other Sam did. And his feet weren’t cold. Was he dreaming? But everything looked so real!
He caught up to the other Sam and yelled out his name as he reached out to grab his shoulder, but again, his arm phased through his shoulder. He couldn’t grab him. The other Sam continued walking down the snowy path. Sam chased after himself until he reached the school. It was a hubbub of activity and something about this scene looked oddly familiar to Sam.
He entered his classroom as several classmates walked through him. No one could see, feel, or hear him! “Okay, everyone, let’s get seated and get started! Pull out your maps!” Just as the other Sam sat down, Sam realized why everything felt so familiar to him. This was exactly what his teacher, Mrs. Jenkins had told him the day before. Déjà vu. This already happened.
But the dream wouldn’t end. He watched the entire school day unfold just as it had yesterday or today. After geography, they did some math worksheets, and then went on a walk outside to learn about different plants and bugs! He had enjoyed this lesson. When they finished their walk, the students went to PE and Sam wasn’t able to follow them. Instead, the only place he could go was his classroom. Weird. Mrs. Jenkins sat at her desk scribbling something. Sam got closer and saw she was writing up plans about a science demonstration. Sam didn’t realize Mrs. Jenkins worked throughout the time they were in PE.
When the kids returned to the classroom, Mrs. Jenkins excitedly stood up and announced it was science time. Sam noticed that the other Sam rolled his eyes visibly in front of Mrs. Jenkins. She didn’t acknowledge it, but he noticed that the fun lesson that she had been planning during PE didn’t happen. When school ended, the other Sam and his classmates left with little thanks to Mrs. Jenkins. She smiled and thanked her students, but Sam could tell she wasn’t her usual bubbly self.
Sam followed his real self all the way home. He witnessed that when he walked in the door; he left all of his belongings at the door and stormed through into the house. His mom asked about his day and he coldly answered, “Good,” and continued on his way. His little brother Freddy had two cars in his hopeful hands and when the other Sam ignored him, he walked away, crushed. He sauntered to his room and shut the door. Sam tried to follow but couldn't pass the door. Weird. But he knew what the other Sam was doing in his room. He was lying in his bed, sulking and listening to music. He turned around and saw that Freddy slipped into his own bedroom. Sam followed him inside.
A city of cars surrounded Freddy. He must have built this while Sam was at school. Freddy had used his car rug and built blocks to create an intricate city for the toys. He had set out some cars for Sam to play with. Freddy was an engineering genius. Freddy slumped to the ground next to his creation and, after a moment of silence, slammed his hand down on the city and it collapsed. Sam gasped and reached out to console him but his hand just phased through his brother. No.
Their dog Loni scampered into Freddy’s room and nudged up against him. Freddy ignored Loni. Loni waited for a moment, and then sadly left the room. Sam followed his dog out of the room. He wanted to pet Loni but she curled into a lonely ball and closed her eyes in the kitchen. Sam sat next to his dog and pretended to put his arms over her. He yearned to comfort someone in his family.
He heard his mom cooking in the kitchen! Sam walked up to her, but she couldn’t see him. She stirred and cooked without emotion, like a zombie. She swiveled as she heard the front door open.
Sam rushed to the living room and saw his dad kneeling in front of Freddy, with his arms wide open for an embrace. Freddy trudged past him, just as the other Sam had done to him. Dad’s shoulders visibly hunched. He had worked a long day for everyone and Freddy had ignored him. He stood up and went to his wife. “Can I help?” He asked. Mom shrugged and snapped, “It’s almost done.” Dad’s spirits dropped as he exited and found solace in the living room. Sam wondered why her mother acted that way because he saw lines of uncut and unwashed vegetables on the kitchen counter. She could use the help.
Sam couldn’t take it. This wasn’t his home! No one smiled. No one talked. No one seemed happy. Sam waited for what felt like forever as he watched the excruciatingly painful dinner where they all twirled their noodles, and no one looked at each other in the eyes.
When would this nightmare end? Please don’t let this day happen again! Then he realized something. Why did he think the little boy he’d watched all day was the “other Sam?” It was him. He had caused everyone in his family to be unhappy. After what felt like forever, both Sams fell asleep in their room.
Sam's eyes jolted open and he realized he was the real Sam again. He wasn’t floating over his house either. Everything was wonderful again. Or was it? He walked into the hall in his pajamas and saw Mom walking ahead of him towards the kitchen. He sprinted towards her and tightly embraced her from behind. She smiled and hugged him back. He helped mom make toast as she poured the milk for his and Freddy’s cereal. After breakfast, Sam quickly dressed for the frosty morning and saw that Freddy, sadly, stood by the door. Before Sam left, he turned towards Freddy and said, “I’ll be back soon. I can’t wait to play cars with you, or go sledding with you!” Freddy grinned.
Throughout the day, Sam noticed everyone around him was happier because he was. He didn’t wake up any earlier or later. It still snowed. And it was still freezing. He still had to go to school. But he went through this day differently. He invited new kids to play soccer with him, and sat with them at lunch, and thanked his teacher for her lessons, and saw the unique science demonstration she had prepared. This day seemed dull previously because he chose to see it that way. Now he tried to enjoy every moment and include everyone else in it. It was the best day ever.
When he got home, he told Mom all about it, when she asked. He and Freddy helped cut up vegetables for her. They went outside with Mom and Loni and played in the snow until Dad came home from work. They tackled him with hugs and kisses. By the time they got inside, dinner was ready, even overcooked, because they played outside for too long. But it tasted better than any meal ever had. After dinner, Freddy showed Sam his car town, and they played for a while. Sam hadn’t seen his family this happy in a long time.
They weren’t at Disneyland or anything. They were just spending quality time together, and it was better than any vacation. Sam saw how simple the change had been. He had wanted to be alone previously, and on his second go-around, he changed his attitude. He realized that every interaction he made could cause a good or bad ripple effect to people he didn’t even mingle with! This go around he was a good ripple. He would be tomorrow, too. He laid his arm on Loni’s head, who was resting her head on his stomach. What a good day. Sam closed his eyes and peacefully drifted off. So did the rest of his family.
Lesson: The Feel-Good Do-Good Phenomenon
Whenever you help or are nice to someone else, it spreads positivity to that person. It becomes a cycle of positivity spreading from one person to another. When we feel good, we do good to others around us. This is one of the best ways to find true happiness and spread good vibes. We do not know what others around us are going through, so it’s important to never be rude, short, or negative. This is the opposite of the Feel-Good-Do-Good Phenomenon: Displacement.
If I am angry and ignore someone, complain, say something rude, or display unhappy emotions, it can cause these feelings to go to that person. If my son is rude and doesn’t want to talk about school, it makes me and those around him feel those emotions. If I’m in a bad mood from work, and come home to my wife with these feelings, it spreads these emotions to the entire house. If I’m in a bad mood and displace it to my teacher, who put personal time into crafting a fun lesson, it can ruin a good day for an entire class.
Instead of spreading negative emotions, we can try to be positive, which can break the cycle of displacement. We can talk about our hardships with someone we trust. It’s okay to be sensitive and authentic. Imagine the feeling of a sneeze that just won’t come up. When it finally comes, we feel relief once we’ve gotten the sneeze out. Holding things in causes those negative emotions to destroy our mental health. It’s toxic. We need to learn to forget about the past and future stressors, and enjoy loving the moment.