This is an excerpt from my book “The Wisdom of Childhood.”
Be happy. Isn’t that what we all want? Everything we do, everything we buy, everywhere we go, we are always searching for happiness. For some reason, happiness seems to be elusive. We buy a new house, a new car, put a swimming pool in our back yard, but those moments of happiness fade quickly. Maybe if we got promoted to a new job that pays a lot more money, we would be happy. Maybe if we started a new relationship, or ended an old relationship, we would be happy. However, none of these makes us truly and lastingly happy. Where, then, does our happiness lie? How can we find true, lasting happiness? A few years ago, my wife and I took a trip to Mexico to visit ancient Mayan sites. As we drove through the countryside of the Yucatan Peninsula, we passed through many small villages. In each of these villages we saw many children. These children were living in conditions that most of us would consider unfit. Their clothing, if any, was dirty and ragged. We were amused to see two very young boys wearing T-shirts, but nothing else. I guess that’s one way to keep from having to change diapers. The remarkable thing about these children, however, was the fact that they all seemed very happy. How could they possibly be happy? They had basically nothing. Why weren’t they standing along the road looking sad and depressed, instead of running and laughing? Here, again, is a lesson to be learned from children. Children are born with few needs. Food, shelter from the elements, a clean diaper, and love. If all these are present, they are happy. Unfortunately, they are quickly taught to value possessions. Other children have toys, television ads say they need a certain toy, my friend just got a new smart phone, on and on the indoctrination continues, until, as adults, they believe that happiness is to be found in possessions. The day we were driving through these villages was a Sunday. There were many families together in front of their house, on the streets, and in the plaza. When you look closely at these Mexican villages, you will see several things that are consistent in each one. There is a Catholic Church, a plaza in front of the church, and a cemetery close by. Each of these places is well kept and is visited frequently by families. The people, with their children, gather in these places to commune with a divine being and with each other.
So what are the lessons we can learn from these children? First, happiness is not to be found in possessions, fame, or status. Second, happiness seems to thrive in an environment of community and love. Third, happiness is not about wanting more, but is about being thankful for what we have. Fourth, happiness comes from within. It is born of a conscious effort. As Bobby McFerrin says in his song, In your life expect some trouble But when you worry You make it double. Don’t worry, be happy!