Do you know how to have a life of joy?
A businessman on his deathbed called his friend and said, "Bill, I want you to promise me that when I die you will have my remains cremated."
"And what," his friend asked, "do you want me to do with your ashes?"
The businessman said, "Just put them in an envelope and mail them as taxes to the government and write on the envelope, 'NOW YOU HAVE EVERYTHING!'"
Paying taxes is not usually a joy. But giving can be joyful. We pay the taxes because we have to. But when we choose to give time or money, then giving can add to our overall happiness.
Mother Teresa teaches us an important lesson about happiness. She was one of those people who emanated joy. Born in 1910 in Skopje, Macedonia, she felt called as a teenager to move to Calcutta, India. Some months later she saw a sight that completely revolutionized her life.
Shortly after moving to Calcutta she spotted a homeless, dying woman lying in the gutter, being eaten by rats. After seeing that, compassion compelled her to beg an abandoned Hindu temple from the government and convert it into a crude, make-shift hospital for the dying. "Nobody should die alone" she would later say. Mother Teresa went on to establish homes for the destitute dying in numerous cities. But in spite of devoting her life to people in such dire straits, she radiated joy and happiness.
This incredible woman was once interviewed by Malcolm Muggeridge from the BBC News. He asked her an unusual question: "Mother Teresa, the thing I noticed about you and the hundreds of sisters who now form your team is that you all look so happy. Is that a put-on?"
Here was a woman who had none of the things we like to think of as bringing happiness: a home, a family, prosperity. Rather, she lived in near-poverty and spent her time wiping dirt and various body fluids from half-dead cancer and leprosy victims -- and appeared to be blissfully happy. "Is that a put-on?" she was asked.
She replied, "Oh no, not at all. Nothing makes you happier than when you really reach out in mercy to someone who is badly hurt."
She would agree that happiness does not come from acquiring, but is a by-product of giving something of yourself away: time, money, love. Do you want a life of joy? Start by looking outside yourself.
-- Steve Goodier