Me? I believe in happiness. Not the fake ‘smile for the photographer’ variety, but the delirious kind that comes at four in the morning, singing the elephant love medley from Moulin Rouge until we fall asleep, seven girls packed onto a futon. The ‘sweep me off my feet and spin me around’ kind, when the DJ plays your favorite song for you and your sweetheart at your senior prom. And the peaceful happiness that you know you’ve found when you smile even as you wake, to the untimely cocks crowing the dawn three hours too soon when you sleep under the stars on your very own coffee farm. Yup. Coffee farm. Otherwise known, to me, as heaven on earth. The sunrise each morning over the Finca Los Nietos in San Lorenzo el Cubo, Guatemala, Central America, Western Hemisphere, Earth, brings with it a view that would make even the devil smile. The Volcano Agua rises guardian-like over the green sea that is my grandparents’ paradise. But the blooms within the walls of their land and the ocean flowers taken from their home on the bottom of the sea for my grandparents’ table, all these are incomparable to the smiles of the people outside. People who know little more than poverty smile genuinely, and know instinctively to number and remember their blessings, for nothing in this world should be taken for granted. Each moment sitting on the rooftop amidst fallen avocados, or on the grass amidst the lilies – grandmama’s favorite – or the birds of paradise, each beautiful moment spent praying thanks to God for the blessing to simply be. Happy. Learning from the people who wear smiles, not masks. And reaching beyond, realizing that happiness means empowerment to foster happiness in others. It exists. In the birds in the Finca fountain. In seven girls on a futon, soon to part but truly, always together. In a family saying grace at the dinner table, remembering the gifts they have been given. And in each of our own paradises, where the past and constant blessings remind us this life and its precious moments are too short to live anything but happy. This, I believe.
With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
It is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.
– Max Ehrmann
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