Happiness can come wrapped in a box

By Emma Hahn

Everywhere I go, I see advertisements for clothes, movies, TV shows, stores and food. I see huge billboards by the highway shouting for me to buy something I don’t have.
The whole world revolves around me and what I want. What can I buy that will make me happy?
The world wants me to believe that in order to be happy, I need X, Y and Z this very second.
But is that true? Will I really be miserable if I don’t have the latest iPhone, name-brand jeans or gaming system? Will my world crash and burn if I don’t have a boyfriend, if I don’t have $1 million or if I don’t go on vacation to Walt Disney World?
These are all lies that the corporate world wants us to believe.
Even right and wrong have been twisted into things they are not so that we can be happy. Theft. Lies. Greed. Revenge.
The dictionary defines it as “a state of well-being and contentment.”
Billboards define our happiness by what we don’t have. However, we should be happy because of all we have.
Contentment is not longing for the new iPhone. Contentment is what Thanksgiving is about. It is about being happy for even the simplest things in life, like family or a home-cooked meal. Some people have way less than others but rejoice in what they already have.
Recently my church showed a short film about Operation Christmas Child. It showed hundreds of children holding shoeboxes wrapped in Christmas paper and stuffed with toys, candy and toiletries.
The toys in the shoeboxes were not extravagant. They didn’t require a plug or  even AA batteries. They were mostly stuffed bears, dolls, yo-yos, jump ropes and jacks. They were simple by today’s standards.
Most of the children on the screen were very poor. They struggle to survive. The shoeboxes filled with treats were probably the first new gifts they had ever received.
The joy on their faces can’t be described in a few words. The children danced around, shouted, laughed and played with their new toys. Some even cried, because they received things they needed in their shoebox. Those children will stretch the candy and toiletries for months — because they know this is all they have.
By modern American standards, these children should have been unhappy. They couldn’t afford the new toys in the Christmas catalogues. They don’t wear designer jeans or live in a mansion.
Were they unhappy? No. They were delighted with their gifts.
Extravagance is not the essence of happiness. Happiness is found in what we are thankful for.
These children were thankful for their meager presents, and it was evident in their smiles.