Happiness comes from within
The talk around the table last night was about happiness. What makes us happy? That was the question posed at the 5th Tea & Conversation with African American Women event hosted by Sandra D. Long, a newsroom executive at the Philadelphia Inquirer. Nearly 100 women showed up at The Inquirer to discuss this sometimes elusive emotion.
I attended the affair with my business partner and friend, Sherry, whom I am visiting in Philly. We had spent part of the day working, so it was good to be in the company of women laughing and engaging in meaningful conversation. I even got hugs from former colleagues I had not seen in years, except on Facebook.
My breakout group consisted of about 17 professional African American women ranging in ages from the 20s to 70s. And even the young among us already had come to realize that family, significant others, friends, work or money do not make us or keep us happy in the long run. Each of us is responsible for our own happiness.
Several in the room seemed to understand, as I do, that happiness is an inside job. It is a state of mind, some acknowledged. And faith plays a key role in sustaining our happiness, others around the room agreed.
One young woman talked about how she has found freedom and contentment in coming home after work and reading her Bible. She is pursuing her goal of starting a public relations and marketing firm. Her faith, the seeds of which were planted by her parents, encourages and sustains her.
“We all have a different starting point for happiness. It’s not the same for everyone,” said another young woman, Sirena C. Moore, who lit up the room as she talked about what God has done in her life. Moore, a teenage mother of twins turned entrepreneur, received the 2010 Small Business Person of the Year award from the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce and was featured on the cover of Black Enterprise Magazine in January.
The 28-year-old owner of Elohim Cleaning Contractors Inc says she has found her passion and it is speaking and motivating others. Her website tells about her many accomplishments over the last 10 years. “God has given me such an awesome testimony,” Moore enthused.
Women talked about “the juggle” –careers, spouses, children, helping others – that often leaves them little time for themselves. “We give so much to so many people,” said a 50-something health care lobbyist. “I learned this in church… you have to fill your cup to help others.”
Happiness and faith is a topic that resonates with me. Just last week, I spent what amounts to two days learning about releasing family blessings through emotional healing at a College of Prayer module in the D.C. area. Our presenter, Mike Plunket, is a pastor and college professor from New York who describes himself as a Christian hedonist. “I live for the pleasure of God,” he declared.
“True happiness is doing what you were made for, doing what you are wired for,” Plunket said. “To get there you have to own your own emotions. We tend to give our emotions away to someone else.”
Years ago, I made a choice, and I am still working toward this goal, to not allow others to determine my level of happiness. I chose to be happy and I am allowing myself time with God to ensure that my contentment is rooted in something that doesn’t change at someone else’s whim or some condition out of my control.
Webster’s dictionary defines happiness as a state of well-being and contentment. Nothing compares to the happiness I have found in my walk with Christ. I am grateful for the reminders I have received over the last week.
Let’s continue the conversation. What makes you happy?