“Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.” ~Dalai Lama
I saw the photograph on a friend’s social media page: 2 boys sitting in the grass with a very large piece of cardboard on the ground between them. It looked like a large Parcheesi board. I noticed the smiles on the boys’ faces and then read my friend’s words: “When you don’t have games to play you make them. The simple nature and gentle spirit of these families has taught me a lesson in joy and gratitude. These children are happy to be safe. Life is good.” Watching all that my friend has been doing to provide safety and a little fun for these refugees reminds me of the Dalai Lama’s words — happiness didn’t have to come from a store-bought game — the actions of my friend and several others brought happiness to the refugee families and to themselves.
Happiness is a popular subject. Search the internet for the word, and you’ll find more than 580 million results. People are searching for happiness — how to get it, how to keep it, and how to bring it to others. When we were raising our sons, it seemed we often were reminding them that being happy wasn’t dependent on how many toys they had or how well they pummeled the enemy in a video game. “Happiness is an inside job,” we would say — long before hearing the Dalai Lama’s words. For children, it might not make much sense, but as adults, it is pretty easy to see the truth in that simple statement. I live in a home with running water, lights, and heat and air. Everything else — someone I love, a television, a computer, and a dog — all icing on the cake.
Even though it took place in a different time, I love the lessons taught in the show, Leave it to Beaver. I’m sorry there isn’t a show similar to it today, with different races and walks of life teaching those necessary lessons in a funny and thoughtful way. In a recent episode, Aunt Martha and her friend came to visit, causing Wally and The Beaver to miss going to the carnival with their friends. The boys were pretty put out with having missed the fun and decided to punish their parents with bad attitudes. As Ward (the dad) sat with the boys and explained how much it meant to their mother that her Aunt Martha could enjoy seeing the boys, the boys began to soften. Beaver commented that that’s nice and all, but gee, why did they have to give up their fun to make Aunt Martha happy? Ward’s words might end up on the front of my refrigerator. “You’re going to find out as you go along there will be lots of times you have to make yourself a little unhappy in order to make other people happy.”
It might have made my friend a little unhappy to give up an afternoon to create and play a board game with two children who aren’t her own, but the happiness it brought those kids brought her happiness, too. It isn’t about being door mats or martyrs or not taking care of ourselves – it’s about allowing someone else’s happiness to matter more than our own sometimes. There is happiness to be made in bringing happiness to others.
Happiness doesn’t come in a box or a wrapper, it isn’t ready made. Happiness comes from the time, conversation, and selfless gifts we are willing to give. Happiness comes when we are willing to connect with those in the same house with us, in our jobs, and in our communities. Happier people are healthier, more compassionate, more pleasant to be with, and more successful, and I’d like the people I spend time with to be those things, too. I’m ready to do my part, are you?