Happiness in simplicity
Spring Break reflections
This past week, I was given a truly extraordinary gift. With the help of 54 friends, a humble leader and some of the most joyful children I have ever had the pleasure of meeting, I rediscovered simplicity.
I left for Brazil scared to death of the plane I was about to board and skeptical of the mostly unfamiliar faces surrounding me. As all of my friends will tell you, taking risks is not my strong point, so as I was sitting and waiting for the plane to take off, I was basically paralyzed with fear.
Questions were running through my mind at a million miles a minute. What if the plane goes down? What if I get cholera in Brazil? What if I get abducted? What if no one likes me and this whole trip is miserable? Yep, I guess you could say that I’m a bit dramatic and a huge hypochondriac.
To be honest, these kinds of worries are not abnormal for me and they tend to escalate when I’m caught in the rat race that is the University. If I even have a second to breathe, I can’t help but worry about the next assignment that’s due, fret over the friends I should have gotten coffee with during the week, figure out my five-year plan…you get the gist.
But the most extraordinary thing happened once I stepped off the plane into Brazil. I was happy. It may not be the kind of “extraordinary” you were waiting to hear, but for me, it was the first time in a long time I felt the freedom to look up and say, “Wow, what an absolutely beautiful day.” It was the first time in weeks that I was able to see the glimmer of serene gladness that is always awaiting us if we choose to seek it.
I am so blessed for my experiences in Brazil, and it would take me pages and pages to tell you every incredible detail. But there is one story in particular that I want to share. This past week I met Pedro, a 16-year-old boy who helped cook and serve our meals as he worked toward getting a new bike. Since Pedro was malnourished growing up, you would never guess he is the age of an average high school sophomore. But after just one conversation, you would see he is absolutely brilliant in every way.
One night, in broken English, Pedro explained how his dad had left when he was young and his mom had schizophrenia so he had to take care of her. A friend of mine expressed how sorry he was for everything Pedro had been through, and Pedro immediately began to shake his head, smiling and waving his hands. “No, no, no,” he exclaimed. “I am happy.”
At that moment, it struck me that happiness does not lie in figuring out the future, getting good grades or going to really great parties. Happiness doesn’t lie in having a healthy family or “enough” money or a big home. Happiness is simplicity. Happiness is gratitude — it is love in spite of loss and thankfulness for every single blessing. In “The Alchemist,” Paulo Coehlo captures this spirit beautifully, “The simple things are also the most extraordinary things, and only the wise can see them.”
Peyton’s column runs biweekly Wednesdays. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.