Happiness Is…

by Bellezza

Every year, in an effort to learn about my new class, I read them Charles Schultz’ book Happiness Is A Warm Puppy. Then I ask, “What is happiness to you?”
There are predictable answers:
  • Happiness is…playing with my Wii.
  • Happiness is…building a fort with my brother.
  • Happiness is…reading books that I enjoy.
  • Happiness is…eating my grandmother’s fudge.
But this year, there was Alice’s answer:
  • “Happiness is…life the way I want it.”
At first I was appalled. Then, I was almost impressed. Not because she’s right, but because she knows herself. She’s honest with herself. She would love it if life went the way she wanted all the time. Ask her mother, ask her first grade teacher, ask any of the kids she’s bullied on her way up to third grade. They’re terrified of her, as they probably should be. Someone that selfish and bold? What’s not to terrify?
I’ve been thinking about her comment all week as I teach in a room which is well above 95 degrees Fahrenheit. The children stick to their desks, their papers, their chairs. We’ve had teachable moments on this subject, where I say, “Let’s write a descriptive paragraph about heat. How does heat taste?” Saish answers, “Heat tastes like tiredness,” and I want to shout, “Yes! What wonderful imagery!” Except that I’m too exhausted to concentrate on much more than keeping us all calm.
So, what is happiness?

Happiness is life the way I want it some of the time, to be sure, yet it’s so much more. This morning I was reminded that we shouldn’t look at what we don’t want to see. Let me put that in the correct context. It is said that tree skiiers, those who ski in fresh powder which has not been prepared as black diamond slopes usually are, must not focus on the trees. They must look at the white areas around the trees, the places of escape. Therefore, don’t stare at what you don’t want to see.

This struck me so deeply, as I contemplate my son who joined the Marines this August. I’ve been looking at the danger. The possibility of war. The way he may be stationed in Iraq or Afghanistan. These are all real concerns. But, why have I not been looking more intently at the way that I see him follow his dream? On many levels I am proud of him for being brave and adventurous and pursuing something honorable.

This doesn’t mean I’m not afraid at times. “Mother,” I said while we were speaking on the phone last week. “The Lord loved Bonhoeffer’s mother and she lost three of her sons. What if the Lord requires such a sacrifice from me?”

“Well,” she replied, “we don’t know what will be required in our future. But, you don’t have to bear it today.”

So, instead of looking at the things that make me unhappy, fearful, or anxious, I need to look at the things that make me joyful. Happiness is being content with what I have and rejoicing in today.

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