This I Believe

Jennifer - Wolverine, Michigan
Entered on October 24, 2007
Age Group: 18 - 30
  • Podcasts

    Sign up for our free, weekly podcast of featured essays. You can download recent episodes individually, or subscribe to automatically receive each podcast. Learn more.

  • FAQ

    Frequently asked questions about the This I Believe project, educational opportunities and more...

  • Top Essays USB Drive

    This USB drive contains 100 of the top This I Believe audio broadcasts of the last ten years, plus some favorites from Edward R. Murrow's radio series of the 1950s. It's perfect for personal or classroom use! Click here to learn more.

I know of something that can’t be bought, stolen, or obtained by any other superficial means: that something is happiness.

I thought happiness was attached to material possessions until I attended a trip to Mexico with habitat for humanity. My friends and I thought it would be fun to go on the journey. We saw it as an opportunity to travel, skip school, and sun bathe. When we arrived, our hopes and expectations quickly dissipated.

We weren’t in a beautiful city like those depicted in traveling brochures. We were driven out into a dusty, uncharted town. The people there were poor, but not like the poverty here in America. The food was extremely scarce. One day, as we were repairing a house for a single mother with three children, a girl in my group fainted due to the blistering heat. My group leader asked for some food and water so the mother rushed into her house and came back holding bundled handkerchief. It contained an apple, some remnants of a partially cooked fish, and two tortillas.

“Sorry, this is all we have for today,” she said in very broken English. I was dumbfounded. That isn’t even enough food for one person and she had to share it with her children. I pitied these people; they wore the same clothes daily, and rarely bathed. But the strangest aspect of their appearances was their faces. Each and every one of them wore a wide grin. They were humble, generous, and kind. No matter what we did we were praised and taken care of to the greatest of their efforts. These Mexican people, in a small, unkempt town, were happy.

What did they have that I didn’t? They were living off of their land, and their entertainment pertained of unorganized sports and work. Regardless of these conditions, they were the happiest people I have ever met. I believe that happiness is a choice.

While we were there, my group and I built several buildings for the homeless, and ran events like soup kitchens and activities for the children. The people gave us the utmost care and attention, and always wore a smile. It was during these daily activities that I realized that happiness is a choice. The common misconception that money buys happiness had finally registered in my mind. I found that, like these people, I should be happy for what I have, not long for what I don’t. I attended a simple trip to Mexico and I ended up with a lot more. Whenever I am down or feeling discouraged I just have to recall their dirty, smiling faces and my situation is brought into the light. I know that my problems are not truly that terrible. If my car breaks down or I received a D on a test, I just have to look at the situation from a different perspective. Maybe I should just be happy with what I have.