Isabela, our beautiful host for our Global Child Brazil episode told me the story of what it was like growing up on a farm in the outskirts in a tiny town a couple of hours from Sao Paolo. Both of her parents were German immigrants and one of her earliest recollections is how she used loving to play with the different farm animals. We had just returned from both of our first times doing white water rafting. I jumped off a bridge during that adventure and Isabela, who didn’t want to get wet, was thrown in by one of the instructors. I thought it was so funny (you should have seen her face) but at the same time metaphorical that in life, sometimes you’re going to get wet weather you want to or not. What was most interesting during that experience was the joy that both she and I felt through the simple act of floating down a river and fighting to keep our rubbery craft from toppling over. The joy of simplicity.
When we returned from rafting, Isabela told me an even better story of how her parents gifted her with a head of a chicken (apparently they were cooking the rest) and Isabela took it to play imaginary games as a young girl would with a Barbie doll. Aren’t children awesome like that? They can have fun with the simplest of things. You travel through Africa and they’ll be playing soccer with coconuts, in Mexico children will play catch with rocks and in Jordan, they love to sword fight with sticks. Children find ways to have fun in the moment and with the most simple things available to them.
Growing up my mother always told me to stay away from conflictive girls. She said: “son, life can be hard enough on its own, find someone who will your life more simple, not more complicated.” At the beginning, I shrugged it off and boy was my Mom right. I’ve paid attention as I’ve matured through heartbreak and wisdom, perhaps that’s why at the time of this writing I’m still single. The most beautiful things in life are simple. A glorious sunrise. Chocolate. A beach with just enough breeze. Coconut water on a hot day in the tropics. A well-placed high-five with a friend. Babies. Floating on a raft down a river. A nice patch of rolling green grass to lay on. An acai bowl. A great caipirinha during sunset.
Simplicity brings joy. Wait, I have a better one. Simplicity reveals joy.
I think that in this fast-paced world we live in, it’s so important to realize that honestly… sometimes less really is more. I can’t tell you the number of times where I’m sharing a beautiful moment with someone that gets interrupted over and over again because they haven’t silenced their phone or because they’re browsing on IG every five minutes. With Isabela it wasn’t like that; because from my experience in Brazil, I was noticing that enjoying the simple things of life and being in the moment is a great Brazilian trait. Isabela and I visited a dangerous Favela and traversed it’s graffiti-covered steps with the guidance of a local inhabitant. We toured the streets of Rio and saw people dancing for no apparent reason. I even met a friend who took us on a ride on his sailboat. He quit his job as a stockbroker and now did just that… sail. When I asked him why, he said that he preferred the simple life because it made him happy. Happiness and joy are like close cousins. They’re related but they’re not the same thing. Happiness is tied to what is “happening” around us. By definition, it’s very difficult to be consistently happy in this world with all these external factors messing with our groove. On the other hand, joy is internal. Joy is how we feel on the inside regardless of what is happening on the outside. I’d like to present to you the idea that, when we simplify our complicated lives and learn to live in the moment with gratitude for the particular place we find ourselves in, we reveal joy that has been placed inside. I read a book called One Thousand Gifts by Anne Voskamp that hypothesized that joy is directly proportional to our gratitude. Try it out… after you finish reading this blog post just sit there for a couple of minutes listing every single thing you’re grateful for. You’ll notice it happening: a warm feeling from the inside, the smile bubbling up on our face… it’s joy!
What I discovered in Brazil with Isabela, is that Brazilian people have to constantly fight the crowds, their traffic, their crime and their complicated social and geopolitical situations to enjoy the simple wonders that they’ve been blessed with. Rio is possibly the most scenic city in the world. Iguazu is the most impressive series of waterfalls and rainbows known to man. Perhaps that’s where the battle for joy is… in fighting to keep the simple things sacred. Enjoy going for a walk and watching the sunset. Have a coffee with a friend and leave your phone at home. Eat an ice-cream because you can and then exercise it off because it’s a blessing to be able to. Whatever the simple things in life that you find you enjoy… go after them and let’s allow joy to reveal itself because, at the end of the day, life is just like that rafting adventure: since you’re going to get wet, you might as well enjoy it!