I won't pretend I am going to answer that eternal question here but I will share a few things I have learned about being happy in my half century on this earth. This post was inspired by a friend who is going through some difficult times. I am not without sympathy but I can only listen to the same story so many times without wanting to shake her and tell her life is short! Move on. Instead I will vent a little here and make a plug for an organization I think very highly of at the same time.
1) Other people cannot make you happy. Your joy comes from within. When you focus on how you feel all the time and let's face it, many of us don't feel wonderful all the time, you miss out on life. Living for the day, for the moment and for the surprise of what is going to happen next is exciting. If life is boring it's because you aren't trying very hard. Learn to paint (seriously! I taught myself- you can too), join a club, learn a language. I am re-learning French because I plan to visit Paris next year. Once you acknowledge that you, and only you, are accountable for yourself you will stop trying to make sense of what the rest of creation is doing.
2) Helping and loving others is more rewarding than helping yourself and gives you a high you can't get any other way. I love chocolate chip cookies and I love eating them and I also love baking them. My cookies are exceptional. I have tweaked the recipe over the years and I know the exact ratio of butter to flour and how long to bake them in order to produce the perfect cookie, crisp on the outside and soft and chewy in the middle. What do I love more than eating them? Baking the cookies and giving them to others! Giving to others is a gift to oneself and produces instant gratification.
I volunteered with Compassion at a Christian concert Thursday evening. Three fairly well known Christian bands came together to play in a small town venue in order to raise awareness about an organization I have been involved with for five years: Compassion International. Compassion connects children around the world with sponsors who provide a monthly stipend that funds the child's education, medical needs, spiritual needs and makes sure they have enough to eat. In many instances this small amount of money, which averages a little over a dollar per day, allows the child and her family to rise out of poverty. It's a small price to pay for such a huge return.
There were more than 250 people at this concert, which was held in the gymnasium of the high school. 24 people signed up to sponsor a child. That is an amazing response, especially considering that the town where the event was held has struggled economically for the past 20 years or so. This town cannot support a grocery store, yet 23 people came forward and decided to make a difference in the lives of 23 children and their families. The sheer exponential power of their giving is beyond measure when you stop to consider it.
Happiness is a state of mind. I don't deny that there are medical and mental issues that can severely affect ones sense of well-being but I am not talking about those conditions. Depression is a very real illness that needs to be monitored by a doctor. But so many of us are mired down by the in-consequence of our own state of being. In my experience, looking outward brings inner peace.
I had recently stopped sponsoring my Compassion child from Cartagena, Columbia. I was her sponsor for 5 years and we had a good relationship but she was ready to pursue a more adult lifestyle. I made a new commitment to a child this week. His name is Julio Cesar Ceverino Salas.
Julio is nine years old and lives in the Dominican Republic with his parents and three siblings. I am excited about sponsoring and praying for this new child who I will be privileged to help and encourage through the years.
John 15:9-17 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. These things I command you, so that you will love one another.