Disclaimer: Credit for "The Happiness Project" goes to my youngest sister, Emily, who is working hard to get her master's degree as a graphic designer. Her request for post-its from family to complete a school project, kicked off our November in the right direction. Thanks Em, for your awesomeness and for letting me "borrow" your amazing ideas! You can check her site out here.
Following church on our first Sunday in Chennai, we were dying to get a glimpse of that coastline off of the Bay of Bengal.
There's nothing more exciting than thoughts of a foreign ocean and it's beach, see?
It wasn't exactly what we expected.
Fun fact ...
Aside from the conditions themselves, the law says no swimming.
Most of the Indian people don't know how to swim. The underwater bench drops off drastically. Don't forget ... you can drive wherever and however you want ... but if you swim ... there's a police officer standing by to squash your fun in an ugly prison sentence sort of way.
Christian saw it as an excellent business opportunity. All he needed was a surf/boogie board shop to convince the people of the fun to be had ... that is, if he could avoid an international arrest.
I love that kid's optimism.
Nevertheless, the beach was crowded with happy families and though we drew quite a lot of attention, we walked the length of the beach from the crowds to a more rural end.
We were in fishing territory and a group of children playing near their working fathers, spotted us and came pouring in our direction having spotted our "western-ness".
This beautifully outgoing girl wanted to practice her English on me. She was obviously a young lady in charge of children often.
She quickly took charge of us as well, dragging me and my camera up the sand toward their home.
And set to introducing this bunch of friends and family, playing her best at interpreter and clinging on to each English word I spoke like she was digesting a free opportunity.
Her father asked her to ask me to take his picture so that he could see what he looks like. We take common conveniences like mirrors for granted, I realized.
Which gave way to a happy flood of similar desire.
Each night, we spent quite time together discussing our observations of the day. There were endless gratitude lists for things like forks, toilet paper, air conditioning, running water, clean water, refrigeration, washing machines ...
Newel brought up an incident leaving a restaurant and glancing in the side street to see the dishes he'd just eaten off of being washed, camping style, by two women at work over water-filled buckets in the alleyway.
Last night, for family home evening, Celia shared her appreciation for those we often take for granted. With no infrastructure for trash removal, she was suddenly so aware of that green truck that rumbles down our road each Friday, emptying the cans we only had to drag there.
Christian mentioned how such a little thing like education ... something he gripes about daily ... was the driving force behind a quest for a better life or the harshness of menial living.
YET, never had any of us met a happier, warmer, more uplifting people whose pure joy comes from nothing of tangible substance ...
And that applies to every individual we met through our entire trip, no matter their circumstances!
I'm grateful for conveniences. I really and truly am. But ...
More than ever, I felt that gratitude itself, springs up from the deepest well of pure happiness and has very little to do with what you think you have been blessed with.
Gratitude fills the soul in those incomparable moments that make one glad to be alive.
Our family began filling out post-its for my sister's project, asking ourselves what happiness is ...
Like, the smell of baby lotion (sorry, that's me ;)
Like, cold milk chasing a hot cookie
Like, unused play dough
Like, singing aloud alone in the car
Like, fresh cut grass ....
And our spirits lifted with gratitude for a lifetime of simple pleasures .. (and yes, some of which are helped along by modern convenience of a first world nature :)
We talked about how life is full of not so favorite moments. Sure. I don't love the dark of the morning ... but I love one that gets everybody out my door happy, hugged, and on time! Cold cars in winter aren't my fave ... but man o' man, once that seat warmer kicks in, I could drive anyone anywhere!
Focusing on the good and great in any situation fills us up with happiness and lifts us where we stand.
It certainly did this morning, as I basked in the beginnings of our own "Happiness Project" ...
And my heart nearly burst for the opportunity to absorb an inwardly satisfying peace in the enjoyment of each and every one.
May your month and beyond, be full of gratitude for all that Happiness IS.