How would life be for a Hong Kong city-boy to stay at the rural district of Philippines? I thought it was going to be hard for being deprived of material life. Happiness? Must be, as I heard from other classmates. But I just couldn’t imagine I would enjoy the rural life. I would not have known, if I didn’t come to see myself.
Yes, there is no 24-hour air-conditioned environment, no stable Wifi, no hot water shower. So what? It turns out that without the distraction of these stuff, I therefore achieved a peace within myself. In the past, I thought happiness was linked to external stimulus. For example, happiness from buying the most updated electronic gadget, or the satisfaction of getting a good grade. But they are not long-lasting. The feeling fades quickly; and boredom fills the blank. What I thought was crucial to my life turns out to be irrelevant on the path to happiness.
I experienced another kind of happiness here in Jagna. I got more self-conscious in the rural environment. I started to slow down my footsteps and listened to the world. I started to look around and have eye-contacts with people walking on the street. I started to realise that they are smiling, the kind of smile you can only find on the face of an old friend. You feel comfortable looking at them. They are not rushing to somewhere, nor calculating how much money they can get from you.
We came here to help, but eventually it is us who were helped. Through the interaction with local host families and business owners, we were exposed to a new set of value. Might be profit is important, but it is just not worth costing the smile of the employees. Might be material is important, but it is just a means to happiness, never mix it up with the ends.
“Chinese businessmen are very hard-working, but they do not look happy”, the reception lady in the resort told me. I used to be proud of being the “hard-working Chinese”, who change their living environment with efforts and benefit the whole clan. However, her statement just provoked me to think whether we were therefore happier? Or we have get lost in pursuit of materials. We sacrifice the time with families and the dear one, in order to make more money, get a higher position in the company, and then believing we can buy back the happiness in the future.
“I don’t have the ambition to earn a lot of money, I just want my customers to enjoy their lives here.” Jesse, the owner of the resort, replied when being asked of the mission of the business. “I am satisfied to see the smile of my customers.” Everyone walked pass the gate of the resort were his friends. To me, getting along with friends is one of the best things can be. No wonder I could always find a happiness on Jesse’s face.
I would not have known how poor we Hong Kong people actually are, not in terms of material wealth, but in terms of the smile on people’s face, if I did not come to see myself. Life here is like a reminder to myself, “never mix up your ends with the means”. Every walk of life here are my spiritual teachers on the course “introductory to happiness”.