“We live in a world that can be mean and hateful, and negative. I wanted to do random acts of kindness, so I started giving out Happies to let people know they are loved.
I was born in Starkville. My dad worked with plant pathology at Mississippi State. We were poor, but we didn’t know we were poor. My brother was in fourth-grade when my mother started working outside the home. He was nine or 10, but he made sure that he got my sister and me on the school bus every morning, and we came home and did our chores. I grew up seeing my parents take care of family and neighbors.
There were a lot of widows in our community, some related to us and my parents took care of them. Daddy would put his tiller on the back of his truck and till the weeds out of their gardens. When mom made yeast rolls, the neighborhood smelled like a bakery. She made pans and pans of yeast rolls and dropped them off to friends and neighbors.
Three of their four kids were in college at once at Mississippi State. I majored in teaching and broke the gender barrier to get girls into the Physical Education program. I taught PE for 41 years. When I was in North Carolina, I also taught social studies and health because they needed somebody in the classroom who could discipline children. I told the kids, ‘I know nothing about North Carolina history, so teach me.’ We had a good time with it.
I had two mean little boys, but they were Jerry Rice fans. Starkville was also Jerry’s hometown, and he was known to go to McDonald’s with his family when they were in town. When I was home for Easter, I grabbed my son and my camera. Jerry and his wife and kids were at McDonald’s. I got pictures and autographs for my two bad boys. Those boys didn’t believe the autographs, so I pulled out the pictures. I never had another moment of trouble with them.
I moved to North Carolina because of my first husband. I got rid of him and then the second husband. I am not trying to see if the third time’s a charm. My dad died, and I came back home to help take care of my mama. I drew a circle within a 100-mile radius of Starkville looking for a place to live and work and got a job teaching in Lauderdale County.
Fitness was always important. We found fun games in PE that helped bring in math, leadership, and thinking on your feet. The Disney Channel came in and did a story on our kids and games.
I may not be a millionaire, but my parents taught me lessons that money can’t buy, such as caring for people. When my daughter, Cassie, worked for the women’s basketball team at State, her budget didn’t have much money for pre-game meals for her media staff. She asked me to bake a cake for them, and that’s how it started. The weather got cold, and we added a crock pot and soup. It grew into feeding the media staff, radio folks, and news crews. I would leave buckets of bubblegum in the basketball offices. I got to know the baseball coaches and made candy bags for the baseball team. They got really big ones when they made it to Omaha last year.
I kept looking for little ways to make people feel special. My son, Corey, played college baseball at a small school in Missouri. I couldn’t get off work to see him play, so I tried to do little things for the out-of-state players at Mississippi State. I wanted them and their parents to have a positive experience.
The Happies grew from food and candy to these ornaments from Dirt Roads Pottery. I kept passing the store and finally went in. I started buying the ornaments for friends and family, then gave out a few at baseball games. I gave them at the regional games to people from other teams and made a game of picking bags with a different Mississippi State ornament in each one. I gave them to the coaches after they won the national championship.
I keep buying ornaments and giving them out. If I see someone with a State car tag or shirt, I walk up to them and say, ‘I see you are a Mississippi State fan, and I have something for you. I promise you that you will enjoy it.’ Then I walk away. People just think a crazy woman gave it to them; they don’t know who it was. With the price of gas right now, the gas station is the best place to give Happies.
I retired in 2016. I had a trailer on four acres and my mother lived with me for the last five years of her life. Giving out Happies became my time with people. I don’t often get in the mood to cook or to bake, but I started making to-go plates for the shut-ins in my area. It became my own meals on wheels. I still do that.
It’s special to be able to randomly do something for someone else—to make their day and see their smiles. I just want to be part of the good in Mississippi and Mississippi State.”
8 comments on “I started giving out Happies to let people know they are loved”
Thank you for publishing this. I have gone down memory lane today and now, I have tears in my eyes. You made this old girls day. It was just what the doctor ordered.
Such a great story of your life, Debbie!! I have missed seeing you, but hopefully that will change this year! Your generosity has been such a blessing to everyone you have encountered. I love how you give back to the athletes. They will never forget you either! You have made sure I got in on some of the girl’s basketball team
activities which I thoroughly enjoyed! God bless you, Debbie!!
I thank you for all my happies … and Lord there have been many through the years. I see them every day in my home. Thank you for being my Mom’s best friend, for taking care of her & Billy, for baking & cooking meals, for always being there. YOU are a very special friend & always has been…hell Debbie YOU are my sister!
Thank you for all your happies, the LOVE & SMILES YOU give to each of us. GOD BLESS YOU Debbie & all you do. I may live far from HOME but YOU touch me in so many ways everyday. I love you
What a wonderful gift of kindness you share!!! The randomness of the gestures make them extra meaningful for those whose lives you brighten!! The tribute to your family values is touching, and serves as a strong testament to riches not being measured in money!!! Continue your kindnesses, and I know God will continue to bless you abundantly!!! Love you! ~ Rick and Cathy
Debbie, I have always known how generous and kind you and your family have always been. I was not aware of all of these generous deeds, however, living in Tennessee it is hard to keep on track with all of my loved ones. I know caring for your Mother through all of her illness was a. hard row to hoe for I also had that responsibility as well as going back home after daddy died. These are not easy things to do and are truly labors of love. Bless You! You are Loved.
Thank you, dear lady! Love and miss you!
What a great article! I loved reading your backstory . Thanks for spreading love everywhere you go; the world could use more people like you. I am so proud to call you a friend.
Such a wonderful idea from a special friend. I have been reading this from LaVeta, Colorado where I am taking a workshop. On our way here we have met people from Lucedale and Brandon. Always great to meet people from home. Your Happies are a reminder that someone cares.