Tonight I was asked what is happiness. I was asked to define it, describe what makes people happy. Is it just a laugh or smile, or something even more that happiness really is?
I grew up in the typical suburban world, where the color of your uggs was the epitome of fitting in and fitting in was the source of happiness: the ultimate goal.
I found this little secret; passion, happiness, and love are all things that grow the more you pour into them. Over time, friends, family, teammates, and community becomes your team, your best friends. You serve them, and they feed your soul.
Happiness to me was the priceless exchange between two people, separated by language yet connected by a smile. Yesterday we got a glimpse into a local woman's, Santana Mantia (21), life by visiting her home and exchanging curiosities about the others way of life. We were all told before the trip to bring a "shadow gift", my mom of course went the practical route and got hats for me to bring yet I, having gone on the trip before, knew that I wanted to do more. I wanted to achieve this mystery of a concept of happiness. I wanted to not help, not charity, but live with these people in every way I can. I wanted to be a part of the moment and experience, not just visit. So like most kids I brought bubbles and animal bracelets and other fun little toys, no practical purpose except for bringing that smile.
What I expected to happen happened, we went to her home and learned how to make traditional food, feed the animals, care for the house, and wash the clothes. We gave her the gifts and she thanked us, the typical house guest routine. The explicit was all as per expected, what I didn't expect was everything implicit. The emotion, gratitude, pride, and happiness not only coming from Mantia, but from us. As she showed us the house, she spoke in slow Spanish to assure that we understood everything she was explaining, and did so with a sense of pride. She was proud of the tortillas she made, the chickens they have, and her kids. Mantia was 16 years old when she married her husband, who was 22 at the time. She had her first kid shortly after, Diego, and two more boys not long after.
This family defined what happiness is.
Happiness is the small gestures that you do to make someone smile, and it works. Happiness is when you can't help the smile you get and the warm feeling inside when you make someone else glow. Happiness was Diego's smile when I said I liked his dog. Happiness was the feeling I had when I gave one of the boys a lollipop, something we take for granted, and saw how much his face lit up.
Happiness isn't something you get by yourself, it's the feeling you get when you experience the roots of something bigger than just material objects; the gestures one gives another.