By my anonymous cousin
Have you ever stopped to ponder what ‘happiness’ really means?
We all feel it from time to time, and in our own ways. Certainly, what might constitute happiness for some, might not present the same for others.
It is both bizarre and fantastic to me that happiness has the power to show up tailored to each of our adventures in life.
Webster’s Dictionary defines ‘happiness’ as: “A state of well-being and contentment.” Alternatively, it is described as “a pleasurable or satisfying experience.”
Anthropologist Ashley Montagu once wrote: “The moments of happiness we enjoy take us by surprise. It is not that we seize them, but that they seize us.” I love this quote. I absolutely agree that happiness has the ability to grab hold of us — sometimes in a moment’s notice — and take us on an exhilarating ride.
A universal dilemma, often portrayed in pop culture, is the pursuit of happiness. I feel this is best exemplified in the 2006 Hollywood blockbuster film of the same title, The Pursuit of Happyness. The movie tells the story of a young husband, father and independent salesman, played by actor Will Smith, who loses everything and becomes forced to live on the streets.
The film paints an honest and humble picture of homelessness in society — irrespective of the city being portrayed. So vivid, in fact, is director Gabriele Muccino’s depiction of homelessness, it could have been describing poverty anywhere — Regina, even.
…happiness has the ability to grab hold of us — sometimes in a moment’s notice — and take us on an exhilarating ride
~ anonymous cousin
A heart-wrenching scene shows desperation at its highest, when Smith’s character, Christopher Gardner, purposely locks himself and his young son in a subway station bathroom one night, just to stay alive. Gardner mystifies as a capable, intelligent man who, like so many people, are faced with financial constraints that seem hopeless. Without giving too much away, he is eventually presented with an opportunity of a lifetime. Now it’s up to him to suit-up, rebuild and prove himself worthy for his next act.
Given what he’s been through and the losses he’s incurred, having this second chance — a ‘life do-over’ — forces him to take stock of what’s important to him, namely his son’s well-being. For Gardener, finding new joy in an honest day’s work in a high-energy environment, despite starting from the ground up, puts him on a new track toward reclaiming his happiness and merit as a father.
Smith was nominated for a Best Actor Oscar for his role in the film, which is both heartbreaking, inspiring and gives viewers a glimpse into how happiness can be sought after and found in the simplest things, under the most challenging of experiences.
In essence, I feel tremendous compassion for people who are trying to do their best every day, with limited resources and options, and yet who are still able to find joy and comfort in the things so many of us take for granted. For example, a warm bed to sleep in, clean clothes on our backs and food when we are hungry.
Whenever I can, I try to honour their presence with simple acts of giving — whether that be donating a few dollars from my pocket, a hot cup of coffee or a sandwich, or supporting local food banks and shelters. Even a simple smile and acknowledgement i.e., ‘hello, how are you today?’ is a compassionate gesture.
When I reflect on the origin of that compassion, I am immensely appreciative of my parents who have taught me, and who lovingly remind me every day, to practise compassion for everybody I encounter — especially for those who are less fortunate than I am. May we all, like this column’s name ‘The Conscious Corner,’ suggests, strive to be more mindful of those in need of our help. And may we never be too busy, or too rushed, to miss the bigger picture.