In Search of Happiness

“Happiness is not something ready-made. It comes from our actions.”

– Dalai Lama

When Blanche answered the door, she was surprised to see a handsome young man dressed in a nice suit and a tie. She hoped he wasn’t one of those door-to-door missionaries.

“Yes,” she said, edging the screen door open just a crack. “May I help you?”

“Aunty Blanche, I can’t believe I found you,” he said. “It’s me, David!”

“David,” she cried and immediately wrapped him in a big hug.

Hardly a day had gone by when Blanche hadn’t thought about David. For years, Blanche and her husband, Albert, had cared for foster children. Some had stayed for a year or two, while others were gone in a matter of months or even weeks. David had been five when he came into Blanche’s care – one of the special ones, though Blanche would never have admitted to having favourites. Instead, she remembered a beautiful little boy from a damaged home who so needed to be loved. It broke her heart when David was taken from her care after a year and a half.

As they enjoyed tea and cookies, Blanche opened up about the tough times she faced after Albert’s sudden death from a heart attack a decade ago, which forced her back into the workforce. David then shared his journey post-Blanche: a short period with his mom and then more foster care. He talked about the lasting impact of the love and stability in Blanche’s home and how her steadfast faith inspired and strengthened him during hard times. Wrapping up, he excitedly revealed that he was now in college, pursuing a business degree.

“Your love and kindness saved me,” said David, and he meant it.

When I first heard this story, I was deeply moved, and it reminded me of something I had forgotten: life is about people. Not plans, agendas or endless to-do lists. It’s about us. You and me. It’s about the connections we make and our relationships with each other.

An amazing transformation happens as we work toward raising our self-esteem and expanding our awareness: the trivial, ego-driven, self-serving aspects of our lives begin to fall away, and we begin to recognize the effect of our words and actions. Just as a pebble dropped into a pond creates waves that radiate outward, everything we say and do touches others.

I recall reading once that the most potent force in the world is not a force but the gentle power of unconditional love. We are all connected, and the good we do and the love we share can change the world – indeed, our world. Healthy self-esteem is about love. Love for self and love for others. Expressing love and experiencing love can be life-changing.

Blanche’s kind and loving nature profoundly impacted David’s life, and years later, he sought her out to tell her so. His kind gesture of acknowledgement brought happiness and hope back into a life that had become lonely, sad and uneventful. The encounter came at just the right time for Blanche and David, as they often do. Blanche needed to hear those words as much as David needed to share them with her. As Blanche and David said goodbye that day, each promised to remain in contact and visit as often as possible, which they did.

“Do your little bit of good where you are,” declared South African social rights activist Desmond Tuto. “Those little bits of good put together overwhelm the world.” 

Find the courage to express love, receive love and allow happiness to happen.

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