“Prosperity doesn’t guarantee happiness, and poverty doesn’t deny it.” –Unknown—
I remember a few years back when I used to attend a training in Arizona every month. The training focused on building a practice, but it was also about the way we live our lives. The seminar was given by a friend of mine who is from South Africa named Fred. Fred used to love to show slides. In fact, every Saturday night after the training he would give a slide show for everyone. One night he was showing some slides from a recent trip he had taken to Africa. He came to a slide of a young black boy standing by himself in the middle of a dirt road. Fred explained that he had taken this slide while traveling through Zimbabwe. The boy was very thin and had on some tattered jean shorts and a light button up shirt. He was holding onto a well-used soccer ball. The striking thing about this photo though was the smile that was on this young boy’s face. He was grinning ear to ear with a smile that was infectious.
Fred went on to explain that he was amazed at how happy all of the children were that he ran into along his travels. This boy however was special. Let me tell you what that incredible smile didn’t show. That smile didn’t show how he lived with ten others in an 8 x 10 foot shack with dirt floors and a thatch roof. That smile didn’t show that the clothes on his back were the only clothes he owned. That smile didn’t show that his father was shot to death and his mother had died of a disease four years prior. That smile didn’t show that the soccer ball he was holding was the only material possession he owned. That smile didn’t show that he was lucky to get a slice of bread and some rice to eat for the entire day every day. Yet, he was as genuinely happy as any kid Fred had ever met.
In our lives, it’s really easy to fall into the “I’ll be happy when…” trap. You know what I’m talking about. I’ll be happy when I get a new job. I’ll be happy when I find a better mate. I’ll be happy when I make a million dollars. I’ll be happy when I get that big house. I’ll be happy when I’m driving that BMW. I’ll be happy when I retire. I could go on and on. Don’t get me wrong. I like nice things as much as the next guy, but I also realize that those things don’t make you happy. I’ve known a lot of miserable rich people in my life, but I’ve also know a bunch of extremely happy rich people. What’s the difference? Happiness comes from the inside. If you’re miserable without money, you’ll be even more miserable when you have it. If you’re happy, it doesn’t matter how much money you’ve got.
I now understand what Fred was trying to teach us with that particular picture. Don’t look on the outside for things to make you happy. Work on yourself to be happy on the inside. Take a look at all of the blessings you already have and be thankful for them. Sometimes the things we seek out the most are right in front of our face. Serve others and give of yourself every chance you get. Spend the majority of your time with the people you love and the people who love you. You’ll find in your life that there will be very few who meet that criteria. Don’t take life so seriously…take time to smell the roses. Finally, smile like the boy from Zimbabwe. It’s amazing how good that will make you feel.