on happiness


In the country of Bhutan, they no longer judge the success of their country and society by GDP alone.  Now rather than just measuring their country’s production, they are measuring GDH – Gross Domestic HAPPINESS.  Yes that’s right. Happiness.  You see, they believe that GDP is a means to the end, and have had the courage to ask themselves, as a nation, well then – what is the end, exactly?

The Americans believe in the pursuit of happiness, but I’m not sure how close or far that is from actually finding happiness.

Ok. What on earth does this have with front-yard gardening you say?  And you would be right to ask.  I think it has a lot to do with it.

The Bhutanese believe that one of the keys to happiness is the quality of our relationships, a sense of belonging, a sense of community and security.  Here comes the garden. . .

One day last week, it’s about quarter to eight in the morning, I’ve just stepped out of the shower and the doorbell rings.  It is the lady from Sri Lanka.  7:45 a.m. and she is ringing my doorbell!  My finance went out to answer it and I got dressed in a hurry to greet her, still soaking wet and now running late.  She greeted me, wet hair and all, with a great big hug and a kiss.  I thanked her for the mail-box lunch and told her how much my family and I had enjoyed them. She threw her little arm around me and squeezed me tight and said cheerfully in her thick accent – “You know, I know I’m an old lady, but I’m so glad you listen to my stories.  I have no one here.  I’m so glad you’re my friend!”  Every time I see her she just melts my heart.

And then this evening, being the night before recycling day, I got my weekly visit from the elderly lady down the lane who comes to collect cans and exclaim at my garden. She speaks about as much English as I do Chinese.  We have in the past enlisted the help of bilingual neighbours to facilitate at least an introduction – but tonight we were on our own.

She as usual was delighted by the haul from my house (one time I don’t feel bad about how much beer we drink!) and paused and just stared at me and grabbed my arm.  She wanted to say something but we both were completely helpless and both just stood there, an unspoken language on the tip of our tongue until we both finally just burst out laughing – her jumping up and down in hysterics at the ridiculousness of our situation.  Amidst our laugh I’d filled her up a bag of greens, doing my best to explain they were to eat, and she finally grabbed my arm, pointed to herself and said “I” pointed to me and said “you”  . . . big pause “n tee”.  “N tee?” “Ya, N-tee”. . .  And then I got it – “Aunty”.  She laughed and smiled and rubbed my hands.  Here we are, we can’t even tell each other our names – but she is telling me that she is my Aunty.  I resolved then and there to learn some Chinese. (Wish me luck with that)

No amount of Gross Domestic Product could possibly assist me more in my pursuit of happiness than my garden has.  The Bhutanese have got it figured.

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