Unless you live under a rock, you don’t have to look very far before the realities of the suffering of so many around the world crosses your path in some form or another. Whether you’re following the current stories of the Ebola breakout in West Africa, the oxymoronic war for peace in Gaza, or the siege being staged on Ukrainian soil, there is much for us to understand politically, economically, religiously, culturally and ethically before we can then process all of it through our own lens of humanity. The world can feel downright overwhelming — and those are just a few examples on the global front. We haven’t even touched domestic issues. And we won’t. Not here. This isn’t a political post. Not by any stretch.
It’s easy to get caught up in universal suffering, though, isn’t it? To forget to remember that behind all those bazillion stories all bleeding together into one giant cesspool that there are individual people, families, lovers, musicians, students, children, employers, puppies, goldfish bowls and dreamers living amongst the chaos we call being human. (Please check out the remarkable work of photographer Brandon Stanton, who puts faces and stories and life together in one accessibly beautiful package.)
And when we are guilty of being in “that forget about it place,” we are depressed for others’ plight, sad for the suffering, worried about the future, focused on how unfair the world is, and we feel trapped and so we do nothing, and likely move on with our normal activity, relieved it has nothing to do with us and grateful it isn’t us on the other side of the story.
But our lives aren’t all lemons or lollipops. Despair or exhilaration. Misery, just like happiness, is a choice. And while bad and horrible things do happen, our response to them is a choice.
When I was a little girl I loved singing “If You’re Happy and You Know It” and coming up with all sorts of crazy actions to insert at the chorus line to show how happy I was.
There’s a simple message here: happiness begets action!
We can DO SOMETHING to benefit others when they are suffering. We can DO SOMETHING when we, ourselves, are hurting. We can DO SOMETHING to express on the outside the joy we feel on the inside because we know that happiness is never a destination in life; it is the way to live from the inside out. And rather than become bogged down and depressed by life, allow your happiness to positively impact others.
Happy people help more people than “concerned,” “caring,” “sensitive” people who over-emphasize “feeling empathy” instead of actually rolling up their sleeves, getting their hands dirty and helping.
Recently our social media news-feeds were bombarded with videos of friends, colleagues and celebrities dousing themselves with buckets of ice water to raise awareness and money for the non-profit ALS Association. While seeing others get startling wet is entertaining, this campaign is a wonderful reminder to choose action over passivity. Don’t get wet to simply have fun and be part of a worldwide water game. Choose to get wet because you choose to make a difference.
Maybe ALS isn’t your thing and it’s not a cause you want to support. Maybe there’s another cause that calls to you more loudly. Answer it. Create it. Choose it. Be about the business of DOING, rather than sorrowing.
Let this year’s #IceBucketChallenge be your personal call to action to share the happiness inside of you, to get outside of your own perceived suffering and to remember that happiness begets action and when we act we impact life.
But only every time.