The Chronicles of Happy Stories: The Chief
Written by: Maeve Reiss
My travels began. I sat in seat 43B, taking the window seat, with my two bags, a neck pillow, and my journal. From the moment I stepped off the plane after almost 24 hours of travel, I still was unable to fathom that I, Maeve Reiss, was across the world in Thailand. My two-week experience began with many unanswered questions, an open mind, and an eager attitude to soak in a new culture. I came with some expectations, but anxious for the unknown surprises. Each day tapped into a new emotion it seemed, but in the end the greatest takeaway was a newly recognized perspective of happiness.
Happiness on paper seems simple. But living in a very privileged and materialistic world like America, people tend to forget how simple it can be. The word is filled with power, yet so easily abused and fabricated in our world today. It is a hard thing to find and fully understand. Happiness is universal; it is unique to each being, but it is the same in the sense that this feeling makes you smile, laugh, or feel at peace with yourself and the world.
I am currently working on what I hope to be some kind of documentary about the complexity of happiness. So I chose to take this 9 letter word and unravel it in the green villages of Thailand. I discovered a kind of happiness that was inspirational and powerful in simplicity.
So I journaled every day. I wrote about the atmosphere, the people, the earth, my peers, and everything in between. I wanted to observe and remember everything, so at the end I could hear and see my experiences and feelings all over again.
He was much shorter than me, like many of the Thai people, but dressed in his traditional clothes with a soft smile on his face. The look was of someone who I knew would be wise and humble. Boy was I right. Every answer to my questions was created with a selfless motive and kind tone. He spoke about how happy he was with his life and the external help from GIVE that has helped his community. He was always motivated to get community members to help with the projects, to provide food for us, and a place to stay. They may not have had a ton over there, but they sure as hell had some of the biggest hearts. You could sense how deeply he cared for others; his family, his community, and us. He was motivated to educate his community, enhance their opportunities, and strengthen them mentally. Chief Thon had composure and truth in his discussion with us. So I decided to delve a bit deeper.
So I asked him three questions:
What makes you happy?
How would you describe yourself in one word?
Is there anything you wish for or want?
He started off by saying that we made him happy. Us; a bunch of Americans who he had never met before.
That in itself was pretty cool to hear. Our hard work and strict attention to what we were doing, was something he noticed. This gave me and I’m sure others, a little sense of “wow I’m really helping to make a positive impact on this community.” He acknowledged and respected how far we came to help such a small village like his. With this he gave some advice, and that was ‘to make today the best you can. Be friendly today. Make friends and not enemies.’ These phrases sound a bit familiar, whether coming from your mom, a therapist, or a smart friend. But the power of these words came from the fact that with so little and just having met us all, he wanted the best for us. They have fewer things than us. Their lifestyles are simple yet resourceful. They don’t have an immense surplus of food, and clean water, or heat. So many people could look at this situation and not be happy with having so little. Our society tells us we need more and more and more to make us happy, but Chief Thon didn’t want more. The beauty of being content.
He went on to use the word grateful to describe himself.
I wasn’t sure if it completely made sense grammatically, but I disregarded that. Chief Thon didn’t use words such as smart or handsome, which are ego boosters. Instead he chose a word that wasn’t narcissistic but instead reflective. No complaints. Just a gracious and generous human which is a beautiful thing.
Lastly he wished to be healthy. Instead of a new car, a phone, or a cute boyfriend, he just wanted to be healthy. He claimed that ‘when you’re healthy, your heart is healthy’, which couldn’t be more true. When you’re healthy you play better in your basketball game, you pay attention more in class, and you’re fun to be around.
His wish list continued, wanting people to continue to work together. Cheers to world peace! Chief Thon’s words were wise, and they resonated well in my mind and hopefully they will do the same for you.