How to Be Happy

I often receive advice about how to find joy. They run the gamut from soulful to sacharrine.

But one of these gems lodged itself so firmly into my way of seeing the world that it has become a traveller through my blood. I draw on it readily, like the most recently read book in my heart’s catalogue.

It came from a smiling Vietnamese man.

Several years ago I was travelling through Vietnam. At the time I was spiritually on the floor.

My Vietnamese tour guide was the complete opposite.

He was perpetually, deeply and gleefully happy. He grinned from ear to ear in a caricature of joy.

There was very few things that didn’t turn on this ready grin and there were even fewer things that wiped it away.

Huy was simply happy.

As it neared the Vietnamese New Year’s Eve, Huy asked us if we’d like to make a slight change to our already intrepid schedule and travel with him to his family home.

If you’ve visited South East Asia before you would have seen that there is a heavy emphasis on luck; finding it, organising furniture to bring it into your home, wearing colours that conjure it and only dealing in numbers that encourage it.

Huy explained to us that his happiness was something of good luck charm in his village.

The reason that it was so important that we return to his birthplace was that people were depending on him being there.

There was an in-house competition every year to be the first to entice Huy into their home after the clock struck twelve.

If you were the ‘lucky’ one then all of the beer, sweet treats and ethanol flavoured liquor that you lavished on Huy to get him there would have been worth the unending luck that would come your way that year.

You see, everybody in that little village wanted a piece of the action. They wanted a slice of Huy’s happiness.

The morning before we were to leave for Huy’s village we woke in a beautiful seaside resort. I sat for a breakfast of tropical fruit and banana pancakes. We were surprised to see Huy walk up to the table dripping wet and smiling from ear to the ear.

Where has he been? Huy looked at us and stated quite simply, “I was bringing luck to the fish.”

Here was a man so inherently positive that he believed the mere act of going for a dip in the ocean brought the fish diving beneath his happy Vietnamese feet luck.

The take home message? Believe that your attitude affects others. Believe that you’re worth happiness.

I’ve told the story of my Vietnamese ‘Happy Feet’ many times. So many that I’ve forgotten.

I was feeling particularly exhausted at the end of one school year. I was spent.

On the last day of school a young boy who I particularly adored for his fierce intelligence presented me with a beautifully wrapped gift.

I thanked him and took it back to my office to open it later, believing it to be the usual sweet but small gift of a box of chocolates.

Back at my desk I unwrapped it. My heart caught in my throat.

It was a framed picture of a rose that he had drawn himself. Above it were these words:

“Thank you for teaching me Miss Hardwick. I will never forget what you have given me. Always remember that you bring luck to the fish. Fish like me.”

I treasure that frame. It always makes me feel as though I’m the first house that Huy visits.

Perhaps I am.

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