Happiness, defined by Webster’s Dictionary, means a state of well being, contentment and joy. As I reflected on the meaning of happiness I couldn’t help but think of the people in my life who are truly happy and who could find many reasons to choose to be otherwise. Now some would argue that we can’t choose to be happy or unhappy, that incidences in life make us happy or unhappy. I have several examples of some amazing people who have chosen to live their lives happy no matter what their circumstances. Let me share with you stories of two of the most amazing people I have ever known. The ironic part of their stories is that they are both under the age of four.
First, there’s the story of Faith. What an appropriate name for such an amazing little girl. Before Faith was born, doctors discovered some problems with her heart. Shortly after Faith was born, doctors performed heart surgery. She was just three weeks old. This would be the first of several surgeries she would have to endure. As Faith began to grow, her spirit would shine through in her beautiful smile. Faith played, laughed, and loved all the while enduring health issues that included several more heart surgeries. Faith went to church with my parents and every time I would visit their church I would see pretty little Faith, smiling and laughing with everyone she came in contact with. Faith’s parents created a website to update family and friends as they journeyed through this ordeal with their little girl. Pictures of Faith would show her riding her tricycle, coloring, playing outside, riding on their boat; living her life with a smile on her face and happiness in her heart, while sometimes being connected to a monitor, machine or stuck in a hospital bed. Updates and pictures would be posted periodically and each time she was smiling. Faith endured so much to be so little, but she always had her smile and would light up the room when she walked in. In November 2006, Faith had her third surgery. Three months later, she started having complications that affected her lungs. Faith had to endure more surgery and unfortunately on April 7, 2007 Faith lost her battle and quietly passed away with her parents at her side. While the end of her precious little life brought sadness to those who knew her, the legacy she left behind will live on forever. Faith was a shining example (along with her parents and family) of true happiness. She chose to be happy. I am told that there was children’s music and balloons at her memorial service something that Faith would have loved; something that would have made her happy.
My second example involves a little friend who is only three years old. My little friend’s name is Sophie. I’ve known Sophie’s family for several years. Her big sister was in my preschool class and her family attends the same church that I do. Sophie has always been a fun, silly, happy, laughing little girl. Sophie has a smile that never ends. A couple months ago, Sophie was taken to the hospital early one morning with a tummy ache and a fever. Thinking it was the same stomach “bug” that had been going around her parents were not too alarmed. After the doctors ruled out the stomach “bug” or appendicitis, they realized that Sophie’s condition was very serious. Within a few hours, sweet little Sophie was diagnosed with stage 3 kidney cancer. The next day, Sophie had her kidney and a grapefruit sized tumor removed from her little body. Within a day or so, Sophie was sitting in her bed, looking at books and smiling that same beautiful little smile. After a week in the hospital, Sophie was able to come home. Less than two weeks later, I walked into the sanctuary of our church and much to my surprise there sat little Sophie and her family. My heart leapt for joy as I sat with her and talked with her and her family. All the while, her smile never stopped. When I asked her how she was her answer was “I’m great, Karla!” Less than two weeks had passed and this sweet little girl who had undergone major surgery and was approaching an 18 week bout with chemotherapy, was telling me and everyone who asked that she was great! Sophie and her family choose to be happy. Sophie’s condition continues to improve and her smile, well that just keeps getting bigger.
As I reflect on Faith’s life and watch Sophie as she endures her treatment and the side effects that go along with it, I am reminded of all the things in my life that should make me happy. But why is it that I allow some of the littlest things get in the way of my happiness? Why is it that messy bedrooms, dirty dishes and dust bunnies take away my happiness? The answer is simple: I allow it. I choose to let it get in the way of my happiness. All too often we allow ourselves to lose focus on what’s really important and lose our happiness.
My daughter received her first acceptance letter to a college last week. I was truly happy for her and then it hit me. She’s leaving me. She’s going to be away from me and I will have absolutely no control over what she does or where she goes. Should I be happy about this? You bet I should. This isn’t about me anymore. It’s about her. It’s always been about her. Her dad and I have spent the past almost 18 years making it about her. We have raised her as best we could. We have taught her to be responsible, caring, open minded, open hearted, accepting and most of all happy. While I will miss my daughter and all the things that make her unique, I choose to be happy for the young woman she has become and for all of the wonderful opportunities that lay ahead of her as she enters into this new phase of her life. As a mom it’s hard to let go of our babies, but babies grow up, go off to school, move out and move on. And while missing my little girl and shedding a few tears as I know I will when I leave her at her college room door in a few short months, I must choose to be happy for her and will welcome the young woman who takes my little girls place as she journey’s ahead into her new life.
It’s all about choices…we can grumble through life and stress and worry over the roadblocks on our life’s road or we can choose to look at each roadblock as an opportunity to find our own happiness as well as share it with those around us. It’s your choice, only you can make it. What will you choose?