Saturday, February 16, 2013

What makes you happy?

What makes a person happy? Will a box of chocolates do? Or a nice and a minute-long bear hug perhaps? We might have noticed that the longer we live here on earth, the more we seek for reasons to be happy, the more we yearn to get a hand on things that we believe will unlock the door to an infinite bliss. When we were kids, an action figure of our favorite superhero would send us jumping for joy, or a battery-operated toy car that runs on its own in just a press of a button would make us smiling from ear to ear. However, now that we’re all grown-ups, the way we used to look at the world changed. The ways we define happiness is no longer through an acquisition of a piece of toy with plastic wheels or a quick game of hide and seek with kids we don’t know. I used to define happiness as something tangible, something that I ask for and something that I wait to take place before my eyes. However, there’s something that happened during one seemingly ordinary day that made me realized that gaining happiness may not be as difficult as climbing a mountain. Sometimes, all it takes is to see what seems to be the unseen and feel what everybody doesn't seem to feel.

I was minutes away from ending the same old exhausting day from work. I was a Customer Service Representative back then and dealing with customer queries through email was my main job. I was sitting on my favorite chair that could do almost anything for my entertainment. It could spin me around endlessly and its ability to adjust its height would make it an instant elevator-like contraption. It was me and that chair that keeps my sanity in tack in my work place every day. While I was looking for the right words to put on the email I got from a guy somewhere in New York, I looked around and saw the same old tableau of thrilled employees, itching to go home. Ken, who usually positions himself so low that his butt was almost off the edge of his chair, was sitting up straight with his feet nailed on the ground. Rochelle, who was sitting next to Ken, had her bottled water hugged by her left arm and Glai who prefers to spend her eight hour shift with both her feet raised off the ground, was already on her feet. Then there I was, racing against time and trying to answer the last email I received before the clock strikes four. Before I knew it, it was passed 4 but it was a good thing that what I only had to do at that time was click send and I was ready to go. I made my way to my locker and I was walking like I had shackles around my feet. I was so tired that I could ever think of was my bed. I put on my blue jacket, got my bag on and went out straight to the jeep terminal.

I got off to Guadalupe where I would ride a bus to Paranaque. I like how the Guadalupe market looks like at around 4 in the morning. There are not too many sidewalk vendors, not too many people and despite the fishy stench of the wind that caresses my face, for some reason, it makes me happy. No, it wasn’t the foul stench of the wind in Guadalupe that shifted my definition of happiness. It was that guy I saw near a footbridge that made me stop my briskly walking. He was an old man, somewhere around his 60’s I guess, based on the apparent wrinkles highlighted by the streetlights of Guadalupe. He was wearing sun glasses. Now, who would wear sun glasses at around 4:30 in the morning when the sun rays hasn't even reached the horizon yet? Then I examined him and noticed that his right hand was holding a long gray stick. He was moving the stick in front of him, looking like he was checking anything that would cause him to trip. He was moving as slow as a mollusk that everybody walking from behind would overtake him while avoiding the stick that was swaying from right to left and vice versa in a rhythmic sort of way. I knew right then and there that he was a blind man, walking along the sidewalk of Guadalupe at 4:30 in the morning without anybody guiding his way. 

             For a couple of minutes, I stood still from where I was and observed the next events that unfolded before me. It was sad that nobody even cared to offer a hand to this poor old man. I felt nothing but pure pity. Does he have any relatives or friends maybe who would bother to accompany him at that time of the day? Why is he travelling alone? And why would anyone let him do such trouble-causing risk? With questions left unanswered, I approached the old man and with the nicest tone I could ever make, I asked him, “Hi sir, where are you heading?”. He stopped from walking and uttered an unfamiliar place. I didn't know how to get there but still I offered my hand and told him that I would take him there. I held his left hand and put it on my left shoulder and we started walking. I was clueless of where to go next but I thought of asking directions from a barker near us. The barker gave us clear directions and we went ahead and immediately followed it. While we were traversing the paths mentioned by the barker, the old blind man would occasionally trip and I had to look at him every time he would, to check if he was okay. I had this concern for him and that if anything happened to him, I felt like I would be the only one to blame. We started talking about me and what I do and then I asked him the questions I had in my head but I could no longer remember his answers. 

        However, what I could vividly remember is that I advised him to never get out of the house without any company. I told him that it’s dangerous for a blind man to walk around dark streets and I suggested that if in case he needed to, he should make sure he has someone to be with. I knew for sure that I sounded like I was his father and he would just say yes like he was my son. We finally got to the jeep terminal where he needed to take a ride. I wished I could be with him until he got to where he needed to go just to make sure he’s safe. I talked to the driver instead and told him that the old man was blind and he should make sure that his travel would be safe. I bid one more goodbye to the nice old man and told him to take care always. He said thanks and gave me a tap on my shoulder. The jeep sped away and I remained still until I could no longer see the jeep that he rode onto. 

         I walked back to where I was supposed to go but at that time, I wasn’t rushing anymore. I was walking slowly while trying to reminisce what I did. I felt this distinct happiness that I’ve never felt before in my life. It wasn’t the happiness I get when someone gives me a box of chocolates and it wasn’t the happiness I feel when someone gives me a hug. It was a unique happiness that I got when I acted on a situation where everybody pretended to be numb and blind. I chose to see when everybody chose to look away and chose to feel when everybody decided to ignore. I think that’s who I am as a person. I choose to be kind to people because I believe that it’s one of the easiest way to be the happiest man on earth. Adele’s album can’t be appreciated by a deaf or a collection of the Twilight Saga DVD can’t be appreciated by the blind but giving up your time and effort can be appreciated by anyone. Mark Twain, a prominent American author and humorist said it perfectly, “Kindness is the language the deaf can hear and the blind can see.”