I’ve been hearing the word “happiness” a lot lately in various venues: movies, advertisements, the bestseller list. Even a radio program dedicates a whole hour every week to the subject itself.
This is not necessarily a bad thing. It’s good to think about big issues and ideas – especially when so much of the world quibbles with small problems most every day.
The problem I have, though, is in defining and understanding what part it has in my life. Afterall, what exactly is “happiness”?
I don’t want to describe it as a smile on my face or a temporary good feeling that ripples though my body on payday. Those might be happy moments, but from my perspective, “happiness” is far more than a temporary thrill. It’s not less than that but rather much more. No, “happiness” is a product of a life well lived; it is to see something in totality as “good; it is to enjoy a spirit of contentment.
Growing up, I remember reading and enjoying the comic strip Peanuts. The lovable loser, Charlie Brown, used to say that “happiness is a warm puppy” and everyone would sigh. Looking back on that, I now realize that what Charlie Brown was saying was that, in reality, happiness is caring about others more than caring about ourselves.
As a young man, there was a time in my life when I looked in the mirror and saw someone I just didn’t like. Or more appropriately, I saw someone I didn’t want to be. It’s difficult to understand how I got there, but it partly came about by being led by what others thought and just trying to fit in with the crowd
Well, I’m not as young as I once was and now I have a family. I often wish my kids didn’t act up or that my son could just walk without all of the necessary hard work he will have to do if it is ever going to happen. I wish when we went out or to church that he wasn’t slow or using a walker. I sometimes wish we fit in with the crowd.
My younger son once commented that it seemed other families at church were “perfect” and we were a mess. I replied that “perfection” is a mirage. They all look that way, but they deal with similar challenges. It’s a matter of our perspective. We’d change our mind about them if we lived inside their house.
The fact is, though, unlike those other families, the seeming blemishes of a family dealing with physical disabilities show on the outside. Oh, they have theirs and they may be good at hiding them. But they are there. Ours are unavoidable; the imperfections cannot be hidden or covered up.
So, when we walk in, pretension of perfection is just not possible.
As parents of special need children, we need to get over the fact that our blemishes show and just be real. We need to live our lives. I can’t be the best father I can be without letting go of what others think. I need to put the needs of my family in front of mine. My children need to see my unconditional love - and how better to display it than to say I see the imperfections and that I still love them all the same!
And you know, when I let go of that pursuit for false perfection, I think the result is true happiness. I am content. The genuine life is not easy nor is it always happy – but even when things don’t always work out, happiness is still possible because I enjoy contentment in all situations.