A number of years ago, I spent nearly twelve months living in a Northern Brazilian town. The experience showed me how little I knew about culture, relationships, and point of view on the world.
One thing I was never able to overcome was how people there saw me as a ‘first world’ person. Just when I thought I was building relationships based on equality, my new-found friends would remind me that I was from a rich country while they were from a place they saw as far poorer and less organized. It drove me crazy, what difference should that make to our friendship?
Not too long ago, I had the opportunity to travel to Cuba, a society unlike any other. One conversation I had with a young man working in a restaurant made me stop and take notice. We talked of the high level of education Cuban citizens possess, the strong culture and human warmth of the people. And then this gentleman said to me, “None of that is of any value to me when I can’t put enough food on the table to feed my family.” He spoke of the frustration of knowing so much and working so hard, yet not having the opportunity to use his skills to build a career or make enough money to even meet his basic needs.
And now, I look around me at the affluence of our city- the neighbourhoods of McMansions, Lexuses in the driveways, motor homes in storage yards, money thrown away on fancy clothes and extravagant parties, and I simply do not understand money. How is it that those who don’t have it want it, those who have it flaunt it, and those who wish it didn’t matter can never get away from its influence?
I pick up the Hallmark card on the stand in front of me. “Happiness Is…” reads the front. I open the card. “…a puppy peeing in clover.”
Mental note- don’t look to Hallmark for life wisdom.
I carry on looking for a card for my grandparents’ sixtieth anniversary, but the phrase sticks with me, “Happiness Is…”. How would I finish that sentence?
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