November 2016, and I’m sitting in the courtyard of an orphanage in Haiti, surrounded by a couple dozen kids. It is after dinner and they have changed out of their matching blue school uniforms into their after-school wear, which has been sewn from repurposed pillowcases. I had just had a cold ‘shower’, which was really two dribbles of cold water coming out of a deficient pipe that was duct-taped to the wall. The soles of my shoes still had remnants of the cockroaches I had had to chase away before entering the shower.
The 89 children in this orphanage in Grande Goave, Haiti were the ‘lucky ones’. Certainly not because they did not have parents to comfort them and when they would cry at night, no-one would come; they would just cry themselves to sleep.
The reason they were the ‘lucky ones’ is because they had a second meal every day. For the other several hundred kids who lived among the six other schools operated by the Canadian-run Heart to Heart Foundation, the bowl of rice served at lunch was their only meal. A lot of families in Grande Goave cannot afford to feed themselves, especially in the months following a hurricane when their crops get completely devastated. They have to clean up the damage made by the violent wind and replant their gardens. Therefore, they rely on the support of this and other charitable organizations to feed their kids at lunchtime, and it is very often that we see kids only eat half of their lunch portion and pass their plate over the fence for their parents to have the left-overs.
As they were surrounding me like they did every night after dinner, I thought I would help them by teaching them the “Circle of Excellence” (a technique of spatial anchoring you can learn in the THINK Yourself® series). The children were very attentive, as they love learning.
I was explaining to them how to draw an imaginary circle on the floor, step into it, and hold a power pose when you don’t feel so great. It helps bring your mood up. One of the smaller girls asked: ”Nathalie, can you remind me again when we are supposed to step in the circle of excellence?”
I responded: ”You step in the circle when you don’t feel great, when you are unhappy or when you feel sorry for yourself”. And the little girl responded with another question: ”But, aren’t we happy all the time?”
I was stupefied. I did not really know what to say and realized these kids were just happy with what they had and that this technique was useless for them, so I responded: ”Well, that is right, you guys are happy all the time, so never mind, this technique is for us in Canada to use when we don’t feel great.”
Then a small boy asked immediately with a surprised face: ”What? Are you not happy in Canada? You have everything in Canada! Why aren’t you happy?” He came to me and grabbed my hand and gave me a big hug. All the kids joined and were all hugging me because, poor ME, we are not happy in Canada. I was bawling. Completely out of it. That really summed up the whole experience. I thought I was going to help them and in reality, these kids helped me.
I came back with a very true and profound realization: Happiness is not having. It is not ‘stuff’. It is a feeling, it is being happy in the moment, in the process. The 89 orphans I hugged for two weeks have nothing. And yet, they taught me genuine happiness and a great deal about gratefulness.
This was definitely only going to be the first of many trips to Haiti as I am now getting ready for another trip with the amazing individuals that run the organization. I am also sponsoring a child, a beautiful boy, whose mother has disappeared, named Jean-Mary Youri.
I am fascinated by the fact that we normally know what we should be doing and yet, do the reverse anyways. A lot of readers who read my No.1 best selling books THINK Yourself® THINand THINK Yourself® SUCCESSFULtell me how much the system I shared in the books has completely changed their lives.
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