I'm sure many have heard me recount one of my favorite parenting stories about my oldest daughter's reply to an interviewer's question about what she wants to be when she grows up. "Happy," she replied, much to the interviewer's dismay and my own delight.
I've thought on that moment often, since, just as I dreamed of it prior. Lucky gal, am I, that her children have taken to heart the most important of my lessons. One may wonder why I consider this the most important in a sandbox filled with granular lessons: do not pee pee in your pants is a pretty important one, too, I suppose.
The answer paves its own pathway. How does one become happy?
Are you most happy in a selfish moment, whether practicing or partaking in another's? Is greed what brings you comfort? Are you joyful in your exclusion of another's care? Does deceit or neglect quiet your restlessness? When you turn from need in a child's eyes, or fail to offer water to a wilting spirit, are you happy then?
I've long ago surrendered to the idea that no matter how many desires I may have - there are plenty - I have so richly had all my needs filled - and by so many I cannot thank - I have no joy but to make sure I tend to others' needs with as much of my time and devotion as I can. So I go to and linger in the places where I can be most useful, where I believe my power is best used. So that every person can vote. So that a child can learn. So that a community can grow. And I'm not there to be seen. I am there to be felt.
For me, that is the path to happy and I go well-accompanied by my faith, which both teaches me to be strong and carries me when I falter. I neither deny another his path nor obstruct it with my own beliefs that he should do otherwise. Rather, I do my best to enjoy his journey from the vista provided from my own.
Should my children grow to follow their own paths to happy, shedding selfishness for sharing, providing warmth to the shivering, embracing the left-behind, I believe they will be walking in the steps of He who went before, as I hope I am. Then again, really then, I will be happy, too.