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March 15, 2017
As I get ready to celebrate, my “OMG, I’m almost 40!” birthday–I turn 39 years old next week :), I’ve been thinking a lot about happiness. Not momentary happiness, but the kind that is deeply rooted and not swayed by: material possessions that come and go, misunderstandings that inevitably arise as you engage with those around you or by negative Nelly’s, fear mongers and self-doubts that surely have a way of coming to the surface as you take risks and enter new stages in life. I’m talking about the kind of happiness that you catch a glimpse of in very rare and special people. Their happiness not only leaves an impression on your heart forever but lights you up when you think about them. In my opinion, to know even one person like this in a lifetime is a blessing that provides a treasure trove of wisdom to learn from.
For me that person was my grandfather. He was so happy and content that you could often catch him laughing in his sleep. It’s not that he had an easy life; on the contrary he had a very hard life, filled with enormous challenges, a lot of hard work, great risk and many adventures. In reflecting and studying his happiness, what I fundamentally have learned is that the magic ingredient was not a person, place or thing, but the perspective and attitude that he greeted the world with.
In the late 1940’s he took a leap of faith and moved to Africa at a young age with his brothers to explore business opportunities and start a new life. Over the next two decades, he not only built a family food business, but also got married to a beautiful, strong woman with whom he had 8 children with. With eight mouths to feed and educate, the funds were always tight in their household, yet my grandfather was known to never think twice about giving the $10 he had in his pocket to a stranger or friend in need. He had faith he would be taken care of, so he always gave freely and put those around him before himself.
Then at the end of the 60’s, when the dictator, Idi Amin came in power and went on a rampage to throw out and kill all Indians in the areas, almost overnight, my grandfather and the whole family had to abandon the home, business and life they had built to flee to safety. His kids by then all varied in age; older ones left on their own, younger ones stayed with them. They all fled to neighboring country’s that were taking in refugees and helping them find new homes in different parts of the world. But with no email, cell phones or even great telephone services, there was no knowing who was where. But he kept his faith strong and thankfully, all of them made it out safely and were reunited within a few years.
And, at the age of 55, with no formal education or ability to speak the english language, my grandfather entered Canada as a refugee with my grandmother and a few of their children. At this point, my Grandfather could have become depressed, disgruntled, resentful or even a miser. But instead, he took the lemons that he was given and doubled his helping of faith so that he could continue to serve the sweetest lemonade in the form of kindness, generosity and inspiration. As one of the hardest and diligent workers I’ve ever witnessed, he gave more money, food and love in generous portions to strangers and friends alike than anyone I know. And in return, he was blessed with another thriving business (that’s still flourishing today) + a lovingly, close-knit family.
These are just a few examples from his life, but the point is that he could be remembered for the amazing business empire he grew from nothing, but instead what truly stands out for me is the resilience he had to get through the countless struggles he endured over his 90+ years. The magic of his resilience, resulted in a constantly, infectious, happy soul that was rooted in faith, kindness, generosity and love–the core tenants of basic yogic philosophy. No matter what situation he was in, I always remember him as having a smile on his face, a deep desire to share what he had (money, time, food, a laugh) and an unshakeable faith in God and the assurance that he would always be taken care of. With that amazing attitude, he always produced the sweetest lemonade for himself and everyone around him to enjoy.
So my recipe for the happiest people is not about having the best of everything, but making the best of everything. A mindset rooted in faith, surrender, kindness, generosity and love; virtues that not only help us keep marching forward but help us find the silver lining through all of life’s ups and downs. The best part, is that in turn, our joy leaves an impressions on the hearts of those around us that lives on well beyond our years. I hope that like my grandfather, as a collective, we have the ability to keep a positive perspective, share & love generously with friends and strangers alike and hold onto faith in God and ourselves, so that as our inner worlds emanate joy, we inspire others to do the same.
Have faith, let go and be happy, friends—-life’s too short to be otherwise. What kind of impression do you want to leave on the hearts of those around you?
Here’s to learning how to make the sweetest lemonade, EVER! :).
Lots of love,
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