The hardest arithmetic to master is that which enables us to count our blessings.
– Eric Hoffer –
Like many people, each morning, I call to mind the things in my life that I am grateful for. As well as the positive and loving energy that it generates for me, this simple practice puts into helpful perspective the challenges and difficulties that I may be experiencing.
Followers of this Blog would now realize that I have learned most of the important lessons in life from the humblest of people in the developing world. The following experience of such a person taught me so much about valuing and appreciating the small things in life. This experience really brought home to me the meaning of the ancient Persian saying: ‘I wept because I had no shoes, until I saw a person with no feet!’
I was with a group of 16 other people from our schools and we were about to visit a community of people who suffer from leprosy in India. At the entrance to the colony, we encountered a woman who had a very badly advanced case of leprosy and found it very difficult to walk. She greeted us with a smile and was very excited. We found out that this woman had traveled for four hours to reach the colony so that she could receive a pair of sandals fashioned especially for people with leprosy and made from discarded truck and car tyres. Since people with leprosy lose the feeling in their limbs, stronger protection is necessary particularly on the feet so that people don’t suffer from infection caused by nails and other cuts to the feet.
After some time meeting old friends, I visited the small workshop in the colony where these rough sandals were made and I found the same woman in an overwhelmingly happy and excited state of mind. I spoke with the cobbler and he showed me the sandals that the lady was about to receive. I have to admit that I was taken aback when I first saw the sandals, as the left foot seemed to be normal size, whereas the right foot was only of sufficient size to cover the stump that this lady had where her foot used to be. I was privileged to be in the same room and see the delight and thankfulness that she expressed when she was presented with this basic footwear. It was as if she had won the lottery!
Not far from my house in Melbourne there is a very expensive shoe shop where people can pay $1000 and upwards for a pair of imported shoes. I wonder how long I would have to observe the happenings in that shop to encounter anyone expressing anything near the delight that this woman showed at the receipt of her simple sandals. In fact, I’ve seen some fairly angry and disappointed looks on the faces of people simply because the half size is not available, the shoe doesn’t quite fit or they have to wait for service.
What are you most grateful for today? Who can you thank today? Ask the question and then be sure to write the email, make the phone call or have the conversation.
Our most basic desire in life is to be happy and know peace.
The experience of the poor woman in the previous story, shows that our capacity to be happy does not simply depend upon which culture or economic situation one is born into. Ironically, the source of unhappiness and distress, for most people in affluent cultures, comes from having too much rather than too little. Too many things, too many choices, too many comparisons!
We should teach our young that lasting happiness will always elude them if they seek it in in external possessions, experiences and pleasures. The experience of lasting happiness is closer to contentment, peace of mind and freedom from anxiety, than it is to the always fleeting experience of physical pleasure. Happiness is not the same as havingness.
Lasting happiness will arise through the experience of living with kindness and gratitude, and an authenticity consistent with our chosen values. It is born out of equanimity and balance, and the ability to adjust graciously to change. Finding meaning and purpose gets priority over comfort and pleasure. Happiness arises from being more, rather than having more; from the quality of our hearts rather than the size of our bank accounts or egos.
Enjoy this wonderful story:
A grandmother was out shopping for some gifts for her grandchildren. While she was at the toy store going through her list and selecting gifts, she noticed a small harmless girl outside looking through the store window. The grandmother’s heart went out to this little girl. She invited her into the store and asked her to pick out a gift for herself.
As they walked out of the store, the little girl held the grandmother’s hand and located her kind eyes and asked ‘Are you God? The grandma, somewhat embarrassed and somewhat touched, said, ‘No dear, I’m not God.’ ‘Then who are you?’ continued the little girl. Grandma thought for a moment and said, ‘I am a child of God.’ The little girl, fully satisfied and smiling, said, ‘I could tell that there was a connection!’
We are sons and daughters of the Divine; of one being with the Divine and with all humanity.
When people come into your life, do they see the Divine connection in you?
I don’t think that I have ever heard of a course in school that is called something like: What is the nature of lasting happiness and peace? We know that every human being seeks answers to this question, so wouldn’t it make sense to explore them directly and with urgency, amidst the other religious and spiritual information that we provide to students?
Some Important Messages for the Young:
- Be happy but know that lasting happiness is always closer to contentment and inner peace than it is to sensual pleasure, which can be fleeting and unsustainable. Know that true happiness abides in an open, loving and compassionate heart.
- Know that happiness cannot be purchased, travelled to, arrived at, owned, accumulated, earned, worn or consumed. The road to happiness lies not through the continual promotion of our own self-interest, but through living a life of service for others.
- Discover presence and stillness in your life. Take the time to know silence. Much of the world has a vested interest in keeping us restless, craving for more and unknowing of when enough is enough.