What is Happiness?
What is happiness? It’s a question I’ve been asking myself extensively over the past few days after a trip abroad to Bangladesh.
Bangladesh is such a mad, chaotic and vibrant country. It’s untouched by tourism and is heaving with noise, colour, dust and heat.
What is Happiness?
Hundreds of thousands of people live in dire poverty. This is not poverty by our Western standards, but a basic struggle for food and shelter. Travelling around in our air-conditioned buses we experienced a real culture shock as we witnessed thousands of people shoe-horned into a city, many living a shanty town existence.
However we were struck time and time again by the smiles on the faces of those we encountered.
When we visited an orphanage at Sreepur village we found hundreds of happy children, excitedly holding our hands and showing us around. They would take such delight at having their photos taken and their excitement was infectious.
In many ways these children had nothing. They had few toys and no real possessions. They lived in dormitories and the younger ones shared mattresses. Their basic needs of food, schooling and clothing were met – but they emitted so much more. There was an atmosphere of real love and warmth about the place.
These children had limited English skills however they were so keen to ask “Do you like our country?” Agreeing that we did, they would smile even more proudly as they obviously loved their country too.
The real culture shock was returning to England. How many of us are proud of our country?
Switching on the radio as we drove from the airport we were bombarded with a wave of negativity. People were phoning in and complaining about the government, public transport and hospitals. It was so depressing we turned the programme off.
By Bengali standards we live in a place of unimaginable luxury. We have wealth, food, accommodation, schooling, healthcare and welfare beyond their wildest dreams. And yet in the midst of our land of plenty there’s a negativity that permeates into our consciousness.
We have so much and yet for many of us it is still not enough.
Happiness is a Choice
So what is happiness? One thing that Bangladesh has taught me is that happiness is a choice – it depends where we put our attention.
We can focus on that which we have and enjoy our good fortune. Or we can focus on that which is missing and bemoan our bad luck. The choice is ours.