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In This Together: An outside view prompts an inside review
Dec 06, 2013 | 1054 views | 0 0 comments | 34 34 recommendations | email to a friend | print

BY LOUISE R. SHAW

Clipper Staff Writer

T
his is a message I’m just passing along. It came from a man who is originally from Niger in western Africa. 

He spoke at a church meeting I attended in New York City last weekend and I’m going to take the liberty of sharing his thoughts with those of you who maybe weren’t in attendance.

After telling a bit about his life, he said that where he comes from, people are really happy when they embrace truth, specifically the truth he found in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

He was disappointed in coming to the United States, however, where both in Utah and in New York, he found that people aren’t as happy.

Maybe you have too much, he said. Maybe you don’t know any differently, he said.

I was really quite intrigued by his message and couldn’t help wonder what it is about us that doesn’t appear to be happy. 

Coming the weekend after Thanksgiving, when we’d all been spending a lot of time thinking about all the good things in our lives and being grateful for them, it was particularly curious.

Are we happy?

Should I just have gone up to him later and said, you have misunderstood us, we are happy? 

Or are we not happy? And if not, why not?

This morning I read a story about a young girl from Uganda who, according to the article, had been “abandoned as a baby and suffered from years of abuse.” 

She was eventually rescued by Watoto, an organization that helps orphans rebuild their lives.

The article I quote from was in a flyer the organization sent out as an update on their program.

In it, the word happy comes up again, in the least expected way.

“She is happy with what she has,” said an American woman who hosted the girl, “which compared to us in the States is very little. I could see she felt like the richest person on earth.”

That because this friend was helping with medical needs and taking her places like a zoo and a park and giving her a choice of snacks, she is happy.

I take these stories not as a reprimand, but as a reminder.

Because I have always grown up with trips to the zoo and a choice of snacks and what I also consider the beautiful truths of my religion.

If, with all these things, I am not happy, perhaps it is more a reflection on me than them.I suppose to a degree, sadly, happiness is relative. But surely we don’t have to know lack or abandonment to feel and appreciate happiness.

I am going to take his words and her story seriously.

In this season when what we have is even more obvious – from the big turkey dinner to the presents piling up around the Christmas tree – I am going to be happy.

Not worried that the there isn’t time to get everything done, not anxious that I might not have the perfect present for each person, not fretful about every last meal and every last event. 

We can do it.

We can be it. 

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