A few years ago I had the pleasure of visiting the Philippines on business. What struck me most was the huge divide between the rich and the poor and the generosity and kindness of the latter.
In Davao, the gateway to the southern part of the island-nation, my business brought me to a rural area. In the comfort of an air-conditioned office of a relatively rich businessman, I ate lunch and then talked shop. Afterwards, I asked my host to take me on a short walk to meet and mingle with the locals.
There were no pretensions, no fancy cars, no cellular phones, no anything other than the bare minimums of a Twenty-First Century life with a roof over your head. Yet I was intrigued by the simple and basic style of life these natives led.
Then we ran into a group of small. giggling elementary school children playing on a dirt road. They had a broken bottle, some bottle caps and a host of other “trashy things” that most westerners, especially Japanese, would feel embarrassed to touch or play with. It seemed that they were involved in a sort of sand-hockey game, but the nature of the game is not really the point of this story.
The point being that you needn’t have a fancy car, a 17-carat diamond ring and a summer home in Monterrey to have happiness. All these things are the gravy and cream only if you are happy in your skin to begin with.
What’s interesting is that the poorest people in the world – including the Australian Aborigines – have the lowest incidence of suicide. It could be said that they have something to live for – the dream of having an education, a car, a trip to Europe or whatever – but there seems to be more to this phenomenon than meets the eye.
We of the comparatively rich countries on this planet have many of the amenities of the “good life” covered plus alpha, and yet many of us have this gnawing sensation that something is missing in our lives.
And that chasm between our desire for happiness and finding happiness grows with each distracting toy and throwaway of affluence we buy for our immediate gratification and to impress others.
I’m not advocating the good old days were really all that much better than those we now live through. What I am saying is that a broken bottle and a bottle cap seem to bring more intrinsic value than an X-box, a Gucci bag or a trip to Spain do for the more well off of our brethren.
Smell the roses. See the sky. Get fascinated with the eyes of your mate or child. They and an infinite number of objects and experiences are there for the offing.
I challenge you to keep your billfold in your back pocket for a few days and discover the cathartic essence of being free.