What Makes Us Happy?

The man from India drags his bare feet across the hot sand, his head burning beneath the noonday sun. Dust swirls around him as he pulls his rickshaw through the village, carrying an older man and young boy in the tiny carriage behind him. The rickshaw driver smiles, knowing he has a full day of work ahead, and money to provide a meal for his family.

The driver’s family lives in the village, a small place that is tight-quartered and dirty. His house has only a tarp for a door, into which every element blows on a windy day. The family owns very little in material possessions, just enough clothing for each person, and a few utensils with which to cook.

But each of them are happy.

When I first saw the name of the documentary, “Happy,” I admit, I thought it would be something different. I thought I’d hear how happiness lay in immense wealth, closets brimming with clothes, popularity, or even the latest gadgets. Turns out, it is none of those things.

As I watched the driver on the screen, I couldn’t help but wonder, how can a man with so little be so content? How can an entire village with almost no material possessions thrive on happiness?

I watched the driver on the screen, covered in sandy dust, his feet tired, worn. As he ends his day, the photographer turns to him and asks what makes him happy.

The rickshaw driver smiles shyly, recalling his daily blessings: How he arrives home each day to find his little boy sipping tea at the shop across the street; how the boy sees him, yells for his Bapa, and runs into his arms; how the village is more than a group of friends, it is a support system for one another.

“These are the things,” he says, “that make me happy.”

Why are we so discontent, constantly searching for something new to make us happy? Why do we think happiness sits inside a mall?

When will we learn to be happy with tea, a child’s hug, a place where friends and family live? When will we find happiness like the rickshaw driver, swirling like dust beneath our feet?

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