You often hear people escaping mentally to their happy places where they can reconnect with who they are meant to be for a moment; rewriting some chapters, rearranging some priorities and for just a short moment, just ‘being’.
I found my happy place when I went to Myanmar. I could not stop smiling there, it was a wellness trip of sorts where I met the ‘me’ that Life had made me forget.
Over time I have come to believe that the simpler life is a secret key to satisfaction of the right kind. We often feel overwhelmed with our lives, with our possessions and the responsibilities that accumulate as an aftereffect of these possessions and where do we run to? A beach, a forest, a long walk, or a meditation. They say hard work is the best remedy for an idle and restless mind, and maybe something in our design needs us to be busy and rewards us with happiness.
This beautiful girl was walking along the village road with a sack of small rocks on her head that she was taking home for a small building project. I followed her for a while till she caught on and turned around and gave me this dazzling smile followed by shy giggles. I was in the presence of pure and uncomplicated happiness.
Someone very wise once said: “happy people attract essences” . Such a true statement and how contagious is a smile! In my street photography around the world I find myself mostly walking around with a goofy smile while I interact with people in their daily lives. Brief moments shared and remembered for a long long time.
Photo of this lovely lady taken in a slum in New Delhi earlier this year.
Every once in a while I meet an incredible human, and they remind me that aging is a natural process that only claims our physical body. The spirit is always effervescent if we allow it to be, the soul is only more experienced and our mind can only grow richer if we feed it in the right way. This lady I met this morning, early at sunrise was giggling while doing her morning exercise and very proudly telling my friends and I that she is 85 years old and still feels young and full of energy. She was infectious in her enthusiasm and bright spirit, light as a feather and innocent as a small child. She renewed my hope in life and its beauty and easily added herself to my list of unforgettable people.
Have you ever noticed how we walk sometimes in the cities with small clouds hanging around our heads, that the shine of our smiles has a very hard time breaking through? We move as though we are troubled by so many invisible phantoms that prevent us from responding humanly to others that pass us by. But when we meet simple people in simple places, there is just us, them and their reaction. Most often it is a big generous smile that glows and its warmth is able to reach us and force a mutual reaction from our faces. And it does feel so good to exchange these smiles with the people of the world where no words are necessary.
Do you remember the last time you laughed with all of your heart while shuffling papers at work in your office? Does the stress in our lives allow us the luxury of a real body shaking laugh? Simple people who lead simple lives have the precious access to simple happiness, the best kind of happiness there is. When we have so little to lose, there is so much less to worry about and the sound of our laughter is lighter, more musical and has the ability to get reflected in our eyes.
The Ponte Vecchio (old bridge), dedicated in its past to butcher shops, it is charming beyond belief as it sits in bright colors over the Arno river. It reminded me fo Lego blocks, something else that makes me smile 🙂
The simpler the people the easier it is for them to smile…
Have you noticed how in the so-called civilized and developed countries, you end up praying for the sun to shine to get a half-smile out of people in the street? We have complicated our modern lives so much that we end up dragging ourselves around miserably with the weight of problems that we took on voluntarily. Then you meet people in developing countries whose lives are simple, whose worries, as big as they may be, are straightforward and uncomplicated so they can smile so easily from ear to ear when prompted!
When I met this man in Kashgar and tried to photograph him and talk to him with my conversational chinese and his Uyghur dialect, we just ended up standing there in the middle of midday traffic just grinning at each other like two simpletons 🙂
In me this moment lives as one of life’s precious gifts valued and not to be forgotten.
In Sihanoukville there is a bright and wonderful project growing that brings hope and a better future for hundreds of children. The Cambodian Children’s Painting Project enrolls children in a program where their local staff and volunteers instruct them daily in painting, arts, and basic learning and help them to sell their artwork in order to have a better life away from the streets. I had the great chance to spend a few days with the children and staff of ccpp where my face hurt from the constant smiling, because being around such a bright endeavor, the only thing you can really do is smile. Happy children, joyful and caring instructors, warm volunteers, beautiful art, just a wonderful environment!
photo taken: Children during an english class at CCPP in Sihanoukville.