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Happiness is a Choice

August 28, 2011

My son recently sent me a link to an article written by a Portuguese photographer. The photographer traveled to a garbage dump in Africa where upwards of 700 people live. These people forage amongst the waste for food and recyclables. Words can’t describe the human suffering depicted in the photos.

Yet, what struck the photographer most was, “Despite all the circumstances of how they live, they keep on showing their kindness and happiness and hospitality” he said.

Emergency responders don’t see anything remotely similar to that garbage dump in Africa, but we are in a “worst day of your life” business. And, yet it doesn’t appear to me we’re any less happy than the population at large. Why is that?

Here’s my theory.

I believe happiness is a choice. And yes, happiness might be an easier choice given favorable circumstances, yet it’s still a choice.

I compare it to Mr. Potato Head. You can dress Mr. Potato Head however you choose and give him whatever expression you choose. And, the smile is no different coupled with the fanciest ensemble versus the most modest.

This realization might be what depresses many who work their entire lives with the goal of wealth. Once wealth is attained it doesn’t guarantee happiness.

There’s a song recorded by Bobby McFerrin called “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.” The ending goes like this: “Put a smile on your face – Don’t bring everybody down like this – Don’t worry, it will soon pass – Whatever it is – Don’t worry, be happy.”

If you don’t think every day is a great day, schedule a ride-along with your local ambulance service. You may see someone that’s not going to have another day. That might be what brings it into perspective for those at the garbage dump.

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