Sunday, March 20, 2016

one meal on the International Day of Happiness

Today is the International Day of Happiness. How about that? Have you celebrated your happiness today? Have you stopped to notice reasons for happiness today?

I came back from Liberia a few days ago and in this week I have read two articles by Nicholas Kristof. He writes about subjects close to my heart. The first article was: South Sudan: Where the soldiers are scarier than crocodiles
Lynsey Addario for The New York Times Magazine - 
awesome photo which I 'borrowed' from Kristof's article on South Sudan

I read up on Sudan and South Sudan from time to time and think: "O God, that is still going on!" I'm reminded to not forget those people. They occupy a corner of my heart. A good reason to be happy is that I have never had to run for my life among crocodiles! Then again, a reason to be sad is that to this day, little boys and girls are hiding from soldiers in dangerous swamps.

The second article was: The World's Modern-Day Lepers: Women with fistulas 

I wrote about fistula 10 years ago, when I was doing the final piece for my midwifery course. And yes, that is still going on too. Women are still dying while giving birth, but on a positive note; things are improving. In Liberia there are visible changes in the healthcare system, especially since the end of the ebola crisis. There is health inspection and a phone number available for advice on whether or not to refer someone to a larger hospital. There are ambulances, so she might not have to go on motorcycle. Women are discouraged from attempting home births and encouraged to seek medical attention during pregnancy. All good developments and all reasons for joy.

But let's face it, if I count my reasons for happiness, it's easy to beat the average Liberian woman. In Liberia I noticed people think that I'm from a land that is equal to heaven. There are people who sincerely believe that white people don't get sick and that it's very unlikely for a white person to die. To some extend, they are right. I have tried to explain to some Liberian friends, that people in my country face serious problems. Looking back on such a discussion, I wondered about the truth of my statements.

It is the Lenten season, the time before Easter when some Christians choose to fast in one way or another. Perhaps they will skip a meal, or turn vegetarian for a while. It is a choice to take time for self-reflection, moderation and repentance, while commemorating the sacrifice of Christ. How would a Liberian take part? Most of my co-workers at the clinic in Rivercess never have a meal before going to work. Sometimes I find some of them a bit slow or even lazy, until I realise they haven't had breakfast! They eat one meal a day.

Then I visit a remote village and they give me a rooster. They will cook a meal that includes a little chicken and a little fish. They'll sit around and watch me eat this feast, while I notice the lack of vegetables in the sauce. If this is their feast and their average meal is much less nutritious, then no wonder I see malnourished children at clinic. They get one meal of dry rice a day! How will they celebrate the International Day of Happiness?

What is such a day about anyway? I looked it up and found the following statement on
This campaign is a global celebration to mark the United Nations International Day of Happiness. It is coordinated by Action for Happiness, a non-profit movement of people from 160 countries, supported by a partnership of like-minded organisations. A profound shift in attitudes is underway all over the world. People are now recognising that 'progress' should be about increasing human happiness and wellbeing, not just growing the economy.March 20 has been established as the annual International Day of Happiness and all 193 United Nations member states have adopted a resolution calling for happiness to be given greater priority.
Then on  I find the keys for individuals who want to be part of this movement:

Sounds a little too simple? Well, for those of us who can eat three meals a day, it can be simple. It is in the first place about giving. Knowing that there is enough to go round and I can share. Before the lack of crocodiles and before the abundance of food and healthcare, there is one huge reason for being happy: I have freedom to share, both my wealth and my opinion.

Perhaps some of you reading this face serious problems. Even if that is the case, I really believe you will feel a little more happy today if you share what good things you do have. Will you try?

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