Can Americans just be happy on May 6? Janice Hathy hopes so.
Janice Hathy is fighting the good fight. As the creator of the Great American Grump Out in 2002, a holiday celebrated every May 6 to encourage people to “refrain from getting their grump on” for 24 hours, Hathy wants people to smile more and stress less.
Hathy believes that the fewer grumpy people, the more peaceful a society. These days though, Hathy’s proposal of “no grumping, no frowning, no grousing, complaining, punching, slapping, hitting or killing” may be more difficult in the midst of an economic crisis. The reality is that the world is dealing with some depressing issues right now, and grumpiness may well be on the rise despite her best efforts.
“After major tragedies there are usually a series of jokes about it that travel around the country which seems to be inappropriate to some people,” said Hathy, in reference to Sept. 11 and the current economic crisis. “The reason for these jokes is because humor helps people cope and heal. Many cry for healing, others use humor. Both are an effective release.”
For seven years, Hathy has campaigned for a happier society. As the owner of Smile Mania (smilemania.com), a program that develops and produces a variety of stress reduction programs and materials to improve the mental, physical and emotional health of children and adults, Hathy believes that smiles and positive energy relieve stress, and, in turn, gets rid of grumpiness.
Gov. Jennifer Granholm of Michigan made a proclamation that the Great American Grump Out would be celebrated in 2006 after a resident of the state put in a request for the positive holiday.
“Whereas, The Great American Grump Out since 2002 has encouraged people of all ages, all over the world, to be playful and respectful and designates one day each year to encourage people all over the United States to go twenty-four hours without being grumpy, crabby, or rude,” the proclamation stated.
“No one has requested to reissue the proclamation for this year in Michigan,” said Tiffany Brown, spokeswoman for Gov. Granholm. Brown hadn’t even heard of the holiday.
This doesn’t come as much of a surprise. Since Michigan is one of the hardest-hit states in the economic crisis, it would almost seem patronizing to then tell the thousands of people who were laid off to forget all their worries and smile.
Hathy believes that grumpiness is a sign of stress, and stress leads to all sorts of ailments. She argues that smiles and laughter take the focus away from one’s stress, and even acts as a physical and emotional release. Hathy suggests there couldn’t be a better time for this holiday, for Michiganders and the rest of America, as stress has been linked to cancer, obesity, and heart disease.
And some people do appreciate Hathy's intention to bring humor and smiles to the surface.
Lindsey Brown, a 24-year-old Ph.D. psychology student, supports Hathy’s motivations. Though her job as a research assistant isn't her dream, she believes that positive energy brings positive outcomes.
“If it seems like a super cheesy thing where you have to deny that anything difficult is happening and clap your hands and smile then that's one thing,” said Brown. “But if it is about acknowledging that everyone has their stuff that is hard and trying, and practicing kindness toward oneself and others in spite of personal hardship, then I am all for it.”
But others can’t seem to embrace such optimism at such times of stress.
“I’m already pissed off today and it’s only 9 a.m.,” said Christian Espino, as he looked at his cable bill that his house guest had racked up to $200. “There’s no way I’d make it through a whole day smiling without a worry.”
For the past five months, Espino has allowed cousins and friends who have recently been laid off to live with him while they find a job or an apartment. He buys their food and doesn’t charge them rent. Espino now worries about his own funds, as his own patience is dwindling because of his generosity.
“I’m trying to help my family and friends,” continued the 28-year-old Espino, “But my sanity is suffering. There will be no celebration of the Great American Grump Out for me this year. I’ve never eve heard of it, but I wouldn’t have celebrated it even if I had.”
Billy Kung, a gemologist and diamond dealer in Manhattan, agrees that it might be difficult to be all smiles and cheer in today’s economic environment. Business has been slow for all fine jewelers in recent months.
“Morale has been pretty low around these parts,” said the 24-year-old as he examined a diamond at his Fifth Avenue office. “Everyone’s just trying to make it, and needless to say, people aren’t exactly happy when they’re not selling and doing business.”
Kung continued: “If you were to walk around to people in this business these days, and tell them to just put a smile on their face.” He paused, laughed, then shook his head, “Well, let’s just say that wouldn’t go over so well.”