Last week I reported to you that Denmark came in first in the “competition” for the happiness index, at least using the criteria employed by the authors of the World Happiness Report.
That was an “objective” measure of happiness. The final score for each country was the cumulative points from the categories of wealth, freedom to choose, social support, generosity, trust and corruption. You may or may not agree with the choice of these six contributing elements, but the project did give an appearance of scientific approach.
A dear and beloved reader from Canada, whom I shall call Mrs. L, sent me an article a few days ago. It’s in Chinese and is titled Two Kinds of Happiness 两 种 幸 福. She asked me if I would be interested to share it with my readers. She also gave me the permission to translate it subject to the condition that she and her husband’s names be left out.
The story is about some volunteers who went to a remote area in China to help former patients of leprosy make adjustments back to an ordinary life. These volunteers did not see their work as a type of “giving.” They felt like they were merely staying with the ex-patients first as guests, and later as part of the community. The visitors got as much good feeling as the villagers themselves. Hence the title Two Kinds of Happiness.
I didn’t do any work in that village. I have no right to second guess the deeper meaning of the “two kinds” of happiness if there’s any. However, I do look at it as a “subjective” type of happiness. It’s a satisfaction you can’t really measure with scientific factors. You are simply — and innately — happy. Happiness is already in you and me — we just have to harness it and bring it out.
Enough beating around the bush. What did these volunteers actually do there?
About eight years ago, a Catholic priest from Italy with the name of Roberto Tonetto apparently was the person who started this good deed. Imitating what he believed Jesus did in his days, Fr. Tonetto moved to China in a community occupied by people who were cured of leprosy but were still suffering from the stigma of being lepers and disease carriers. Tonetto even learned to make with his own hands prosthetics for those who had their legs amputated. For those who still had their legs and feet he made custom shoes for them because their limbs had lost the feel of touch and pain and could easily be injured again.
After a few years, people outside of their community saw that this curious foreigner was healthy, vibrant, and even learned to speak Chinese. He looked like a perfectly normal middle-aged man who still was full of vim and vinegar. Maybe the former patients really weren’t contagious anymore?
Many years later a couple from Canada, a Mr. Chen De Cheng 陈德城 and a Ms. Liang Jie Liang 梁洁莲 , who were of Chinese origin, came to join them. The wife was a retired nurse. So she helped take care of the villagers’ medical needs. The husband was quite good with computers – and cooking. They visited many times over the years, every time a few months long.
Fr. Tonetto, Mr. Chen and Ms. Liang shared something that the modern world seems to be depleting fast like the ozone layer – kindness and modesty. Over and over again they reminded people that they were there not as “givers,” but only to share in the community’s living environment, humanity and mutual happiness.
My friend Mrs. L also quoted the exceptional deeds of Saint Damien of Molokai (who worked with people with leprosy in the 19th century), Mother Teresa (whose name even I recognized) and Fr. Henry Nouwen (who worked with the handicapped in the 20th century). Damien and Nouwen were new names to me. So I looked them up in Wikipedia. I encourage you to do the same if you have time. Their acquaintance will make us all slightly better and happier, I assure you.
If you understand Cantonese and would like to learn how you can be happy like Fr. Tonneto, Mr. Chen and Ms. Liang, go to this portal:
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