The importance of leaving happiness behind is a profound statement. Who in their right mind would choose to walk away from happiness? After all, happiness is a cherished ideal and a fundamental desire for most.
The notion of walking away from happiness came to me while I was working in a rural village in Northern India. The objective of the project was to install a tap in each house to provide running water. Prior to the project, the residents would fetch water from a nearby hand pump for cooking, cleaning, and daily ablutions. The residents were resilient, stoic individuals; who had long ago perfected the art of living without a tap, but you can imagine the impact of having ready access to running water on the daily activities of each house. The sheer joy from having one of life’s burdens lifted.
The project had a profound effect on me. I left the village having met some fabulous people, but more importantly I was leaving a community that was happy. In other words when I left, I left happiness behind, and this made me happy; so I took happiness with me. The realisation made me question my perspective on happiness.
“The importance of leaving happiness behind” means, when you leave an interaction, leave in a way that the other person is happy.
A mothers toil
Walking the paths mirrored in her face
A running tap
A disbelieving smile
A mothers joy
You are my equal
I will walk away from happiness
But I will take it with me
Leaving happiness is not always easy and at times the intent is not to make the other person happy. Consider, you need to discipline your child for poor behaviour. It would completely undo the lesson to walk away from the interaction, leaving a happy child behind. However, it is possible to manage their level of unhappiness, after all unhappiness does not require the absence of happiness.
In all our interactions, we have a choice as to how we engage in the moment. When walking through a (hotel lobby) door the doorman will hold the door for you. You can ignore this person, or you can walk through and say thank you. A simple acknowledgement. Being acknowledged is enough to brighten most people’s day. It takes little to say, “thank you”, but the act is enough to “leave happiness behind”. This is especially true if you can repeat it every time you walk through the door. A smile and acknowledgement will lift anybody and make them pleased to see you.
It is not necessary to be present to leave happiness behind. Emptying the dishwasher before leaving for work will endear you to your partner when he or she enters the kitchen or choosing not to leave a mess behind for someone else to find and clean up, will bring a smile to anyone’s face.
The opportunity to leave happiness behind is not always instantaneous. Frequently it is achieved over a period. We worked in the village for a few weeks. The happiness we left behind was a product of the entire period, not just one day, and not just because of the running water. It was also because of how we went about our business. How we showed respect at each house and took the time to have a cup of tea with the homeowner and meet the family. For many, that was more important than the installing the tap itself.
Happiness is not the absence of unhappiness. It is recognised that there are situations where the other person does not want to be happy. They could be feeling sadness; mourning the loss of loved one, their job, a pet, or feeling remorseful about the car they just crashed. Showing compassion, understanding, comforting words and giving time and a helping hand will help the heavy-hearted person cope and understand the temporary nature of the sadness and that things will improve. Within their unhappiness they will be happy for what you are doing to and for them.
The notion of leaving happiness behind is applicable to all interactions; one to one, one to many, many to one and many to many. The many to many notion is interesting. Consider two groups in a pub, both there to support opposing teams in a televised game. The banter and teasing can be rich and fast, but when done in good spirit everyone leaves having had a good time, irrespective of the outcome of the game.
Related to all this is your happiness. You can’t leave happiness behind if you are unhappy. How many parents have said of their children – they did what I asked, but they were miserable while they did it. The child did not leave happiness behind, they just a completed task.
I have many happy memories of time, spent with family and friends. When you leave happiness behind it makes it easier to relive the moments. You know that your friends, family or that stranger you helped are glad you were there, joyful to have met you.
I may see you today or I may see you tomorrow
It does not matter
Time does not change our bond
There is no need to explain
We do not move between love and hate
Your success is my success
Your loss is my loss
We drink in quite companionship
Even when we are not in the same room
The joy of laughter remembered
Building bridges that span space and time.
Really all you have in life is your name and your history. It is better that people associate them with happiness, rather than with any of the other alternatives.