The final word.
This is the sermon I gave at the Mawsynjri Unitarian Church on my last day in Meghalaya (exactly one week ago now):
When I was young, I would always draw a particular small picture. I remember putting it everywhere for many years. It was a balloon, like at a party, with a smiling face on it. Next to that, I would write, “Be Happy.”
Then, I did not know how important that phrase was “Be Happy.” I did not know that when I became older, more and more of my friends and family would become unhappy. I know many people in my country who are not happy. For the past four years, I have done a lot of thinking about why so many people in my country are unhappy. These are not people who worry about whether they have enough food to eat, or whether their house was well-built. They have these needs met, but they still want more. And there is always more a person can have, so they stay unhappy. They are never satisfied.
But I don’t want to talk about unhappiness. Doesn’t it feel easier sometimes to let yourself be sad than to be happy? You can always find an excuse to be sad. Maybe it’s raining outside when you have forgotten your umbrella. Maybe you are having a difficult time in school. Maybe you are having a difficult time with your wife or husband. These are reasons to be sad.
But what I have learned in these years of thinking about happiness is that you don’t have to succumb to that sadness. You can choose to be happy. And you can choose to live your life in such a way that you are likely to find happiness. I think about this very often, and want to share these thoughts with you.
The first step on the way to happiness is to choose to behave in a correct way. If you are doing the wrong thing, unhappiness is surely to follow. As it says in the Bible’s Galatians, you reap what you sow. If you plant a bad seed, it will grow into a big, bad tree. If you do not study your books, you will fail your exams. If you are unkind to your neighbors, gossiping and unwilling to give them help, you will lose your friends and be alone. If you are drinking so much alcohol, your body and mind begin to waste away. You must act in the right way as often as possible. No person can be perfect, but you must strive toward righteousness.
God will tell you what is right, in your heart, if you ask Him to guide you. Proverbs 3[:5-6] says, “To ngeit ha U Trai da la ka dohnud baroh, bad wat shaniah ha la ka jong ka jingshemphang. Ha la ki lynti baroh to phla ia u, te un pynbeit ia ki lynti iaid jong me. [Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct your path.]” God will always show you the proper way, if you open yourself to His word.
The next thing I have learned about happiness is that you must always believe what you are doing is amazing. Do not just do the right thing. Do the right thing the best you can, so you may be proud of your work. You cannot be disappointed if you have truly done your best. If you are not doing your work excellently, then you will feel that disappointment. This year in Pingwait, the theme of the Unitarian Union’s General Assembly was about letting your little light shine. Jesus said, you do not hide your light under a basket. You put your candle on a table so that all may see. “To pynshai kumta ia ka jingshai jong phi ha khmat ki briew. [Let your light so shine before men.]” [Matt 5:16] May the excellence of your work reflect the best you can give to the world, and you cannot be affected by disappointment or regret.
Lastly, in addition to working toward righteousness and excellence, you must choose to be happy. Some people who have visited the Khasi Hills ask me, “How can you be happy here? Sometimes the water does not come to the tap. Sometimes you run out of oil, and you have to go all the way to Smit and Shillong to get more. Sometimes you miss the bus. You see broken homes and people falling sick far from a hospital.” These things are true. But I am happy here. I think you all are too. You have loving neighbors. You have good schools for your children to attend. You have much land for farming and in which to play. You choose to be happy with these things, even when you are facing a difficulty.
Are there problems here? Yes. But if you allow yourself to be dejected, you cannot alleviate these problems. You must feel in your heart that you can make your life better. You must choose that positive attitude and the belief that you can help yourself and your neighbors. Act righteously and do your actions with excellence. Choose righteousness, excellence, and happiness, and how can your joy decrease? How can you not improve the happiness of yourself and those around you?
I hope in this sermon, I am talking mostly to myself. I hope you have already chosen to Be Happy. You all have made it very easy for me to be happy this year, even though I am very far from my home. I will remember you all and will bring the joy you have given me back to America. I will miss you very much when I go away, but I am happy to have known you and to know that I will see you again soon.
Khublei shibun ki paralock jong nga. [Thank you very much, my friends.] May God give you every blessing.
My last day was lovely.
I went to the children’s service with the kids in the morning. Spent most of my morning over at the Children’s Village, eating lunch there and at the Mukhims’ home. Tea with our main construction workers at noon. Church service around 1 with this sermon and kwai and candies for everyone afterward. Tea at the Mynsongs, the family I’m closest to in the village. Packing up Khlur’s car at home, saying goodbye to his parents, Dari, and all the kids. Saying goodbye to the mothers and children at the Children’s Village. Goodbye dinner at Bari and Nangroi’s house in Lumparing.
As I’ve written before, the children are adapting well. The mothers and Birialna are doing a great job looking after them, and have plenty of resources to help them out. Construction is nearly finished, though most recently stalled by a cement shortage. But, our men have finished a big drainage ditch in the road (utilizing stones the size of eight year olds), and, now that cement has been found, can put in our last doors and windows for the kitchen and bathroom and build our septic tank’s filter. In the fall, they’ll come back to paint the whole place.
I am currently with my friend Ram in Toyko, the first of my stops over the next five weeks. I’ll probably write an update from each country I visit, so folks at home can collectively read where I am. Nangroi, Khlur, and I have talked about using this blog as a public way to update everyone on the Children’s Village, but who knows how that will pan out. In the meantime, this is now a travel blog.
Thank you all for your interest in this important project. Khublei shibun.