From three to five every Wednesday afternoon, I spend my time in Purple 3b, a preschool room at Operation Breakthrough. Seeing as I’m not a teacher at Operation Breakthrough, I can’t change diapers or help potty train or pass out snacks. All I do is play and read with the kids, which is just fine with me, because during this play time is when I learn the most.
It is, by far, the most rewarding experience of my week. It also teaches me more than I ever thought I would learn volunteering. Every time I volunteer in Purple 3b, I relearn that most Americans have misinterpreted happiness. Because I have seen true happiness, and it came from those kids.
But why should they be happier than me? I’m from the suburbs, they’re inner city. Their parents are lower class, mine are upper middle. For Christ’s sake, I have a car; they barely have tricycles. Yet, they possess a genuine sense of euphoria that I could only hope for.
I, similar to most Americans my age and older, have become jaded with the little things in life. A telephone that can show you videos, check your mail, and allow you to talk face to face with someone half way across the world no longer interests us. That’s just an iPhone. Who cares?
But these kids…these kids get excited over the tiniest little things, like graham crackers or a new book about trains. The way their faces light up when they hear they get to go outside and play is enough to put anyone to shame.
I think Americans need to rethink what makes us happy. TV commercials show us at our happiest right after we’ve bought a car, or our parents have given us the latest and most expensive Apple product. But after spending an extended period of time at Operation Breakthrough, I’m pretty sure there’s a lot more to happiness than just a price tag.