This is Anna. My family and I met Anna during our 10 day trip to Vietnam this past August. We were in Vietnam as part of a working vacation. I had conducted a 2-day workshop for the East Asia Regional Council of Schools (EARCOS) and also worked specifically with the Saigon South International School. After four days in Ho Chi Minh City we flew up to the resort town of Hoi An to fully immerse ourselves in the vacation part of this trip…it was in Hoi An where we met Anna.
Anna lives at the Hoi An Orphanage. We had decided long before our departure that we were going to visit this orphanage as part of our trip. We brought an oversized duffel bag full of clothing, toys, and other needed items to donate to the children. Many (but not all) of the children at the orphanage have special needs; others are even bed-ridden with permanent illnesses that, for some, stemmed from the residuals of Agent Orange. Visiting an orphanage like this is a humbling experience for anyone, but we felt it was important for our kids (14 & 11) to see how these children lived and, obviously, to gain some perspective and appreciation for the life we enjoy in Canada. What was clear to us the minute we walked into the orphanage was there was an abundance of love surrounding these children by a staff that was so caring and dedicated to making the children’s lives as comfortable as possible. We did not know we would meet someone like Anna and I didn’t know she would become my role model and inspiration to become the best version of ‘me’ I could be.
What I learned most from Anna is that happiness is a choice; that no matter what our circumstance, we have a fundamental choice each day whether to be happy or not. If anyone had an excuse to be sad or withdrawn it was Anna. While it may be true that her age and naivety keeps her from fully understanding her circumstance, I can tell you that there was something special about this young girl…she was unlike any of the other children. There is a spirit within Anna that is unmistakable and an energy that was infectious. You knew when she was in the room; at times it felt like she was running the place! Being around Anna made you smile, even if she was interacting with other adults or children. You wanted to be around her, talk to her, play with her – she was a magnet…she was happy!
I want to live in the moment like Anna. I want to continue to choose to be happy & positive no matter what life brings my way. I want to choose to be grateful for what my life is. That doesn’t mean I/we don’t have goals and shouldn’t strive for more (whatever more means to you). It means that while we are striving and learning and growing we should be grateful for what we have, are, or do now. Happiness is a mindset that will never be fully realized by the next promotion, raise, relationship, or circumstance. There is always more – more money, better vehicles, nicer homes, a new job – but the happiness that comes of these things is only temporary. Remember how happy you were when you finally got your first permanent teaching contract or full-time job? At the time you may have even thought “If I could only get a permanent contract then I’d be happy.” Are you still that happy or has the target moved?
When happiness comes from within I think we see the world differently. It’s not as though we aren’t going to experience difficulties, set-backs and/or losses – we all will. However, our chosen happiness will allow us to make the best of any circumstance. We get out of life what we are since life is always about our perspective. If we are continually feeling unhappy and negative then that will be our experience since you can always find something ‘wrong’ with just about anything. Choose to be happy, positive, and inspired on the inside first and the world will change its color; it will become exactly what you want it to become because that’s how you see it.
Thank-you Anna for being my inspiration and for reminding me that happiness is a decision, not an outcome.