Are you happy?

June 14, 2007

This was what was happening to his life.

In school, his lack of confidence bred disinterest. Disinterest bred poor performance. Poor performance further bred disinterest which led to even more wavering marks. It was like a vicious cycle. He tried hard to get out but could not. During his primary school days he was getting mostly average marks for his subjects. His favourite subjects were Arts (where he got to draw and paint) as well as Chinese. Coincidentally, these were the only two subjects he was able to get encouragement from his mom. He would concentrate very hard on school’s art homework to make sure that he got some encouraging remarks from mom – and he did. It seemed to be the only thing he really enjoyed doing. But the rest of the subjects were just borderline marks – even a tutor could not help.

Even though he had a quiet sense of humor, the boy was really not a very happy person outside school. He struggled with his height throughout his growing up years, his complexion during his adolescent years. Having a younger brother who was better than him in almost everything did not help either. He often felt like a born-loser. Agony and anger was building inside him as he fought helplessly against that “fact”. Deep inside he could not accept what he was facing.

Things got worse when he got into Secondary school. His marks plummeted and he was barely making it to the next grade. The English language became a challenge for him too. By the time he reached Secondary Four he saw little hope in getting past the last year of his Secondary school studies – he had already made up his mind to get into one of the Technical Institutes to learn a trade instead of persuing University education. “My family can’t afford it anyway.” He lamented in his heart.

He had just sat for his GCE ‘O’ levels and was just waiting for his results. He would have to get a temporary job while waiting for his results in March. This was the norm. Ever since he turned fourteen, he had been getting vacation jobs to get some pocket money for himself.

It was then that he met his new friend…


Are you happy? You may ask “What is happiness?” Many are searching for happiness yet found them to be very short-lived. Some try to find it in friendships, parties, the company of others, some try to find it in treasures, riches, money, others try to find it in activities, achievements, hobbies, even religion. Many have friends, riches, achievements and religion yet still do not feel happy. How then can we be happy?

Please allow me to share a Spanish word. This word has a very good meaning. Its the word “CONTENTO”.

The word “contento” can be translated literally and correctly as “contented” in English. However, very often you will notice the native using this word to express happiness. When they say “Estoy contento.”, they will definitely say it with a smile. It means literally “I am happy”.

How profound. The Spanish-speaking people equate “contentment” with “happiness”. There are, of course, other commonly used expressions such as “Soy feliz” (I am happy), “Tengo gozo” (I have joy), etc. However, this word “contento” has the most significance to me.

How simple, don’t you agree? To be happy is to be contented (with what we have). To be contented IS to be happy. If we are not contented (with what we already have), then no matter what we will have won’t make us happier. It may make us glad for a while but we’ll soon be searching for what we think we must have to be happy.

That was exactly what I learned from that old vagabond. He was a richer man than most executives, then most who stays in well-guarded landed properties. That man had a smile most corporate ladder-climbers and city achievers try to earn. That man, though he had almost nothing had everything. He was a contented man, he was a happy man.


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