• Mary McConnell

What Does Happiness Mean to YOU?

Updated: Jan 27

The other day I was talking with a friend about what makes us happy. Everyone has their own thoughts on what brings joy to their lives, but I think there is a big difference between what we believe makes us happy and what really makes us happy. Actually I think the problem lies in what people believe happiness truly means. Just as there can be different types of love, so too can there be different types of happiness. When we ask ourselves what true love is, we also need to ask ourselves what true happiness is. For me personally, I thought I knew the sorts of things that made me happy, truly and deeply happy ... like spending time laughing with my friends on a night out together, eating popcorn and watching a movie with my two teenage sons, waking up to the magic of Christmas morning and coffee, I can't forget how happy a nice, hot cup of coffee makes me every morning. Yes, these things all make me extremely joyful and full of love, but it wasn’t until I first stepped off the plane in Haiti in 2013 and started experiencing life there, that I felt deep in my heart what for me, true and real happiness is and what it took to experience this feeling.

I spent several months living in a tiny mountainous community in Petit Goave, Haiti helping a little impoverished village in any way that I could (Click Here for My Humanitarian Work in Haiti FB Page). I started a Music & Art Program there, outfitted a few makeshift soccer teams with jerseys, shoes and soccer balls from donations I had been given, performed basic first aid on those needing medical care and most of all simply shared my heart, love and time with some of the world’s most poverty-stricken people there are. And my spirit and soul never felt so alive.

What really makes my heart sing is watching a young boy with a dream of being a rap star on the beach in Haiti strumming on a guitar that he had made from an old oil can with fishing wire for the strings (click here for video) or riding three or even four on a moto (motorcycle) helmet-free, the warm Caribbean breezes and hot sun feeding my spirit. Dangerous and terrifying at times yes, but did I feel alive? Absolutely I did! So did I when I handed a little Haitian girl her first dolly to hold in her arms, or when I experienced eating my 100th meal of rice and beans for the sole sake of filling deep hunger pangs and not for the culinary delights food would typically offer me. Or the time I was taught a clapping song by a group of teenage girls who have no idea what YouTube, Netflix or an iPad even is!

For me, true happiness is not just what brings a smile to my face or what makes me laugh or jump up and down with excitement. It is what touches that most vulnerable part of my being, that part in all of us that is often so hard to reach. Happiness is what makes my soul speak and my spirit come alive, whether that brings tears of nirvana to my eyes or broken-hearted sadness to my soul. It is what makes my heart sing and feel alive and even what makes my heart bleed and ache with sorrow. It is what makes me feel most like my true self and what touches that most vulnerable part of my being.

Happiness is seeing a young boy’s face and heart light up when he puts on his very first pair of shoes ever and then taking steps that no longer involve enduring painful rocks or glass from broken bottles jutting into the soles of his feet. It is looking deep into the sad brown eyes of a Haitian child who is not able to attend my Saturday music class because his one and only shorts and t-shirt set are filthy and his mom is too sick with cholera to wash it. Seeing his eyes come alive when I took his outfit home to my one room, electricity-free shack, hand washing it for him in my bright yellow wash tub with the help of some of the local children that lived next door to me, overflowed me with feelings I can’t even begin to describe.

The young boy I speak about is named Bigenlove (seen here with his first ever truck), a boy that I was not able to verbally communicate with due to our language barrier, yet connected with on such a deep level, a level and depth of spirit that is within each of us, one that does not require any words verbally spoken in order to be understood. Holding his hand as he skipped along to class with me, so excited to be having the opportunity to be a child, to learn how to sing a song, hold a crayon, blow some bubbles or kick a soccer ball. Seeing his little heart, eyes and spirit come alive from the prospect of being part of such a simple weekly event, that is what brings me true happiness and makes my heart sing.

For me, happiness is experiencing life, sometimes good and sometimes very harsh, helping others, connecting with the world and touching the hearts and souls of people, of making a difference in the lives of those struggling and of listening to what makes my heart sing ... really, really sing. Even when that singing comes from sharing a toilet with cockroaches and lizards in a country so foreign from my own … that is where true happiness lies and what true happiness really means to me.


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Mary McConnell

Non-Profit Project Management & Communications

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