Road to Happiness

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I caught part of an Oprah show last week and they were talking about happiness.  They featured the happiest city in the US (sorry but I forgot the name of the city) as well as the happiest jobs.

The mayor of the city said that they re-designed their city about 20 years ago.  They blocked the main street to vehicles so people can walk around.  They widened the sidewalks so people can hang out.  They built a lot of bike lanes and trails so people can bike, run and hike safely.  Everybody knows their neighbors.  Basically, they built the infrastructure for human interaction.  Of course it is still up to the people if they want to interact with others but studies have shown that it is through human interaction that we are most happy.

They also featured a person who worked at a toll gate just collecting payments.  She was very happy and enthusiastic.  She greeted all her customers warmly, wishing them well and just spreading good cheer.  You can see from her attitude that she really enjoys what she’s doing.  You can also see how the people she interacted with seemed happier after speaking with her.

Her attitude towards her work is really surprising.  I guess I’d never expect it from someone working at a toll booth.  Even Oprah said that when she passes through a toll booth, she always thought that that must be one of the dreariest jobs in the world.  I, too think it would be very boring and mechanical.  I forget that even in the littlest of tasks, we have the opportunity to make a difference.

We may think that happiness is directly proportional to how much money we make, how big our house is, how many cars we have, how many gadgets and toys we buy, but it really isn’t.  Most people who do have the money to buy all these things don’t have the time to enjoy them.  They’re usually working all hours and when they do go on vacation, they’re still thinking of work at the back of their minds.  Of course it’s nice to have all the trappings but I think it’s better to have what is important.  And I think what’s important are relationships.  Actual face to face interaction would bring us more happiness, I think, than all the gadgets in the world.  You may have everything but if you are alone, what good would that do?

Everyday, we have within our power to decide how our day will go.  Will we be kind?  Will we smile?  Will we be nice to our kids?  No matter what we do, we affect others with our attitude.  A little kindness goes a long way and a little smile makes everything seem nicer.  Let’s all take the road to happiness.  All it takes is a little time, a little appreciation and a little pleasant disposition.

 

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Family Matters

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We had a grand reunion last Sunday to celebrate a couple of milestones.  It was my Aunt’s 90th birthday and my mom’s 78th (celebrated in advance).  It was great catching up with cousins overseas and other relatives.  Most of my aunt’s children are based in other countries and it was a major feat in logistics to have them all here to celebrate her birthday.  I haven’s seen some of my cousins in more than 10 years and it was really interesting seeing them again, with their children who are now grown up too.

Situations like this make me realize how important family really is.  As kids, of course our families are everything to us but as we grow up, we somehow lose sight of that fact and we decide that friends are more important.  I know when I was in a teenager and a young adult, I didn’t really look forward to reunions.  It was an event I had to endure and I couldn’t wait until I’m with talking with friends again.

Now that I have my own family, I’m starting to understand that family does matter.  I would like my children to get to know their distant relatives.  I now actually enjoy having conversations with family members and listening to their stories.

As they say, you can choose your friends but you can’t choose your family.  In the same vein, they can’t choose us too and yet they still love us unconditionally.  They may disapprove of our choices but they will accept us.  No matter what happens, our families will always be there for us.  I guess this is why most people take their families for granted.  But they won’t always be there.  I was never close to my family, preferring to spend time with friends.  But I now find that I look forward to my sisters’ visits since my kids like playing with their cousins.  I also like hearing from them and catching up.

I guess I’m getting old.  Life is too short and we really should spend time building relationships instead of walls.  We may have differences with each other but we are family.