Inspired by Anna

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  If anyone had an excuse to be sad or withdrawn it was Anna.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.

12 thoughts on “Inspired by Anna

  1. What a beautiful experience. Thank you for sharing it. Isn’t it humbling to learn how to have a richer life from someone who has every reason to want more – yet is happy to be alive?

    This piece made me reevaluate my priorities and remember that happiness comes from within. We are happier than we know and when we live that way, we start to feel it for ourselves.

    • Thanks for taking the time to comment Denine! It was truly a great experience. As I get older I am becoming more aware of the fact that I can learn anything from anyone if I pay close enough attention! I’m glad you found the post enjoyable. Tom

  2. This is such a beautiful post–truly inspiring. I’m also inspired by your choice to include an orphanage with your children. I am so happy that I follow your posts–you inspire the best of what I’m capable of doing. Thank you for sharing this insight with me and all of your PLN.

    • Thank-you Maureen. Your kind words mean a lot I am humbled that you find what I write inspiring. I guess that’s what we are all hoping for, but to hear it is most appreciated! I’ll do my best to keep it up! Thanks again for taking the time to read and comment. Tom

  3. Sometimes I get trapped in the mindset that I need more “stuff” to be happy – its kinda like chasing you tail. It is moments like you had and have shared that remind me that happiness is rooted in something more profound and simple. Thanks for sharing

    • Thanks for commenting Johnny! Anna was truly an amazing spirit from whom all of us could learn a lot. Life really is simple…we just tend to over complicate it! I’m doing my best to keep it simple! Tom

  4. Hi Tom! I am a student in EDM310 at the University of South Alabama and I was assigned to read your blog. I am so glad that I was! This story is wonderful, and I think if people knew that those material goals in life would only bring temporary happiness maybe they could realize what happiness really is. I don’t know if you have heard of Dave Ramsey, but he teaches you how to be debt free, build wealth, and give. The same principle applies, if you are wealthy and don’t give it to needy people you may as well be poor. Happiness comes from choices we make, and if you choose to be happy you will. Also, your attitude reflects on the people around you! I’m sure that Anna’s happiness is contributed some to the loving staff that you mentioned. This was a great post!

    • Hi Carrie. Thanks for taking the time to comment. i’m glad you liked the post and are enjoying my blog. I’ve noticed there are a few EDM310 students commenting…did your professor assign my blog? What is the course about (just curious). Either way I am flattered. I’ve not heard of Dave Ramsey but will do a little research. Anna was an amazing kid and it was a great experience for us all. Good luck with your courses! Tom

  5. Hi Tom! I am a student at the University of South Alabama and for my EDM310 class I was assigned to read your blog. I loved your post. Thank you so much for sharing your story. My favorite part was that Anna became your hero and “I want to choose to be happy & positive no matter what life brings my way.” This statement is something I try to live my life by and hope to rub it off on others. I think its awesome that you brought your children to see how children in difficult situations make the best out of everything they can. I look forward to reading more of your posts.

    • Hi Autumn – Thanks for taking the time to comment. We felt very fortunate to be able to give our kids a truly international experience – their first time overseas – and we wanted to make sure their experience was as authentic as possible. They needed to see how lucky so many of us are to be able to see the world, not worry about food, money or clothing. it was an amazing trip and we loved meeting all of the children at the orphanage. Tom

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