Happiness Is….

Amazing hugs at Seattle airport from one mom to another who both had sick children. We come from different parts of the world.  I am atheist and she is Muslim but the feelings are the same.
Take that Donald!

These words of elation captioned a very happy photograph the other night just after Karen touched down in Seattle.  She was greeted by Paula, her mother and a deluge of Cham supporters.  Having experienced plenty of personal heartache, Karen lives a charmed life with homes in New York and New Jersey.  She travels at whim and has a freedom most of us can only dream of.  She is the reason I found myself in Provence last June, the reason I met the class of budding gourmets who I happened to talk about Paula with.  Unknown to me as I picked Paula as one of any number of examples I could have used to describe my observations of what poverty is, I was sitting directly opposite the wife of the very surgeon with the skill and inclination to operate on our dying patient.  “Team Paula”, as we dubbed ourselves, could not have achieved what we did without Karen.  She sponsored all costs beyond those covered by the hospital, including airfares, accommodation and living expenses.  Despite all she has, Karen’s involvement with Paula, who she had never met until arriving in Seattle a few days ago, has been in her words, “the best thing we ever did”.  This would have to be the most compelling testimony yet, that the best way to happiness is not “having”, but “giving”.

A recent study found that 90% of Australians are stressed.  The main catalyst for our stress is financial pressure.  With Cambodia so close to my heart, this amazes me.  I do not know an Australian who has to miss meals, who survives at a baseline underweight BMI because food is not always available and must be conserved when it is.  I don’t know an Australian who cannot afford the treatment that their dying baby requires or whose father died in pain after the family could no longer raise enough money for his Morphine needs.  I don’t know any Australian who shares a single room with colleagues in a crowded building so that they can live away from home to earn a precious income.  These are common, in fact expected and normal, experiences in the poor world.  So why are the rich world experiencing financial stress?  Could it be because we have confused our needs with our wants and tend to live beyond our means?

With an average family size of 2.5 people, Australia builds the world’s largest houses.  We work the longest hours and we pay the world’s biggest mortgages.  We are not stressed because of food insecurity or threats to our survival, but it would seem, because of far more superficial and unnecessary aspirations.  Do our over-indulgent aspirations contribute more to our long term unhappiness, than to any sense of fulfilment?

It seems just another form of corruption to me, that while a small portion of the world become unhappy and unhealthy through over-indulgence, the rest of the world suffer needlessly through a lack of basic survival needs.

Karen alluded to a current day US politician in her captioned photograph the other day.  He’s not someone you’ll ever find me quoting.  Instead, I am driven by quotes from more enlightened leaders, sadly most of them from days gone by.  Booker Taliaferro Washington shared a wisdom that all of us could learn from.  Thanks Karen, for lifting a young Cambodian woman up with your kindness and generosity.  You deserve to be lifted to the heights that I know Paula and the Cham community lifted you to!

Lift up someone elseHappiest people

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