I believe in Happiness. Happiness is an amazing euphoric feeling that many search for their whole life. Many people search and search for happiness. They seem to look in all the wrong places. They search through substances and acquisition of goods. They never realize that true happiness is found from within. I learned this lesson after taking a chance and traveling with a group of strangers to South Africa. I stepped on to the tarmac into a magical world filled with tradition and rich culture. Upon arriving in Langa, a township with a history of oppression and hurt, I was shocked at what I saw. I was surrounded by trash, dirt, mud, and shacks constructed of what we would call trash. The shacks were a single small room with dirt floors and no amenities. At that moment I felt nothing but compassion for these people living in this town and I was overcome with sadness and anger that people have to live in such inhumane ways.
Upon walking the desolate streets lined with garbage I stumbled upon children playing and laughing. Their laughter filled me with hope. Here they were playing and celebrating life although it seemed they had little to celebrate. As I continued to walk down the dirt road I stumbled upon The African Gospel Church made of nothing but steel planks somehow fastened together. The rhythmic sound emanating from that church was mystical. The people inside were singing beautiful praises to God and the sounds filled me with hope and I felt overjoyed.
We continued walking to the shanties where large numbers of family members occupied single room homes with no running water, sewage, or real furniture. One lady stepped out, ran to me, and asked me to come see her home. She was so proud and smiled from ear to ear as she led me into her home constructed from mud, concrete, steel, and fabric found in the local trash.
Her positive attitude in the face of so little allowed me to see that happiness truly comes from the inside and it not a function of what you own or posses. In America we tend to associate happiness with material goods. Many people are unhappy because they don’t have the best car or the nicest house, but here in the middle of Africa these people have seemingly nothing and are profoundly happy.
When I left South Africa I had a new sense of the word happiness and appreciation for my own life. Most of all I realized to be happy is to be living with loved ones at my side and pursuing personal dreams. When I feel frustrated or upset, I take myself back to that desolate street and can hear the singing of the parishioners of the small decrepit African Gospel Church and I remember that happiness comes from within and a calm settles over my whole body.