Reflections: What does happy look like?

George Rowe


It is the May long weekend, 2014. I just finished some teaching at the Trickle Creek Resort in Kimberley and being the long May weekend my wife and I decided to do some camping with our children.

I sat under the awning of a Copper Canyon RV and read the preface to the latest book by Conn Iggulden, one of my favorite authors. While reading the preface to War of the Roses I felt a double-jolted chill. There was the sheer chill and thrill of the historical path this book would lead me and also the sudden change in temperature that caused my body to naturally react to the coolness of the evening.

Almost suddenly and certainly without warning, a slow-moving mist had moved in and separated the lushness of a beautiful green valley from the awe inspiring peaks of a snow-covered mountain. The blue sky had quickly given way to fast moving clouds and the brilliance of the evening sun could no longer penetrate the black and grey of the evening covering—I knew a rainstorm was imminent.

Sitting in the quietness of the Fort Steel Recreational Resort brought a calmness and a silence that broke through the evening mist, swept across the green valley and echoed off the distant peaks of the snow covered- mountains.

I went to bed at about 11:00 pm and knew it was going to be a night of orchestrated music played by the wind blowing through the giant spruce and fir trees, rolling thunder through the valley and a rainfall that would make me think I was in the belly of Noah’s ark. I fell asleep with my wife, children and grandchildren all in the RV and I felt happy.

It turned out to be a great night of the finest music that only Heaven could compose. It was sweet music to the soul. I was awakened early with the sun just kissing the peaks of the eastern mountains and again I was hit with the thought of being happy.

How does one describe the feeling of being happy? The question I was interested in answering had more to do with ‘what does being happy look like?’ It is amazing how many books, magazines and various articles are available to deal with the subject of being happy but not a lot of stuff on what being happy looks like. Today I was determined to do some practical research on being happy and what it actually looks like.

I very quickly searched my laptop for some kind of an explanation and found a phrase that quickly caught my attention. Being happy means ‘to be content with yourself and your life.’ This gave me something to work with and I was now confident that by the end of the day I would have a better understanding about what being happy actually looked like.

After a camp-style breakfast the whole family decided to do some ‘mall walking.’ This would now present me with a great opportunity to interact with people, people I had never met before, and simply say “Hi” or “Good day,” and then watch for a reaction. While my wife and the children did their own thing I embarked on a new adventure that would bring great dividends. Remember that my foundation statement for being happy means ‘to be content with yourself and your life.’

The first person that caught my attention was a man in his mid-fifties wearing a patch on his left eye. I caught the man’s attention and said “Hi.” He quickly changed the focus of his no-nonsense direction and looked at me with a beaming smile and said, “Hi! You have a great day.” Despite his eye patch his body language and quick response indicated to me that he was contented with himself and his life and thus was oozing with a sense of being happy. Is this what being happy looks like?

I went looking at book/magazine shelves for possible explanations for the “look” of being happy but I found none. The mall had many shops—Winners, Coles Books, Eclipse, Ardene’s, Shoppers Drug Mart, Showcase, The Source, Desirable Nails and many, many more. There was absolutely nothing that flashed anything that was distantly close to explaining what being happy looked like. I continued my search among people for an explanation.

An elderly couple was sitting at a table having a morning coffee and I noticed before I approached the table, that while engaged in quite conversation, they were also holding hands. They were beaming and looking at each other as if they were on a date while still in the lushness of youth. Like the man with the eye patch I thought this was also a visual of what being happy looked like. When I greeted them with “Hi, you folk have a great day,” their response just about floored me: “You too, young man,” the lady said. Wow! Not only did I see what being happy looked like, I felt happiness all over me.

I greeted so many people that day that caused me to reflect on my own state of happiness and wondered if people could see happiness in me. I greeted a young boy who struggled to walk because of braces on both legs. There was the man with a prosthesis where his right leg used to be; an elderly woman resting on a bench with braces on both legs and an oxygen tank by her side; an elderly couple with the husband pushing a walker and a child with a neck brace was being very carefully handled by his parents.

I was now on cloud nine, not because I saw people in various states of physical restrictions but because every person I met and greeted that day responded with a sense of being “content with yourself and your life.” There was a confidence and graciousness about every encounter that helped me put a lot of things in perspective. I am sure that every physically restricted person I greeted that day would prefer to have their body made whole but somewhere along the way they accepted life as a special gift with the intentions of enjoying every moment. I saw what being happy looked like in physical restrictions

Walking past a jewelry store that morning I caught sight of a young couple looking at rings—ladies wedding rings. Could this be what being happy looked like? They were a great looking couple full of laughter and almost giddy with excitement. The gentleman would place a ring on her finger and she would look at it, hold it under the light, ask his opinion and then place the ring on the glass top and look again at another ring. Oh the excitement of planning a life together—wedding bells, careers, children, the buying of a house and the making of a home, savings plans and yes, monies for retirement. When I moved on, the couple was still looking at rings but I saw what being happy looked like and my spirit was encouraged.

After a period of time I met up with the family and one of the grandchildren asked, “Poppy what have you been doing all morning? Aren’t you bored?” “No,” I said. “Poppy just had a great morning!” I held my granddaughters hand and whistled because I saw what being happy looked like.

The Bible says, “To enjoy your work and accept your lot in life, that is indeed a gift from God. People who do this rarely look with sorrow on the past, for God has given them reasons for joy.” (Ecclesiastes 5:19-20). Today be happy and look happy. Remember the sun is always shining.