On my last visit to the physio, Reece recommended an audiobook to me. Having recently got into the "Happiness Lab" podcast; this sounded right up my street.
An Australian school teacher called Huw Van Cuylenburg speaks about his life story, his passionate love of cricket, and how he became a teacher, including a transformational teaching experience in India. This enlightenment was what piqued my interest.
What I wish to share with you today are my takeaways from this audiobook. I will do my best to avoid too many spoilers, as I would recommend anyone listen to this. I haven't had an audiobook make me smile, want to cry and even burst out laughing whilst taking a walk in the park.
Without spoiling too much, I will warn you that the first chapter is pretty heavy going in terms of his family's challenges as he grew up, but it lightens up pretty quickly after that.
Gratefulness, Empathy, Compassion (GEM)
During his time teaching in India, Huw was blown away by how happy the children in his school were. These kids were the poorest of the poor in Nepal. They were lucky to go to school; few of them even had shoes and mostly slept on the floor each night.
Despite their circumstances, they were exceptionally happy. With the growing levels of anxiety and depression in young people in the west, Huw, fascinated by his students' happiness, decided to dig a little deeper. There was one child in particular who became a favourite of Huw's. "Stanzen" was always smiling, always enjoying himself and making sure others around him were having a good time too.
In Huw's first days at the school, he accidentally bumped his head on a door frame. Stanzen took it upon himself to "pad" (with whatever he could find) not just that door frame but all the door frames in the school, so his new schoolteacher would avoid banging his head again. He stayed after school to do this without telling his new teacher. Huw was astonished at the lengths this young man went to to make sure his teacher was "ok".
On another occasion, young Stanzen was playing on a dilapidated swing that looked like something from Chernobyl. There was nothing there but metal chains and a frame. Yet Stanzen looked to be having the time of his life! He asked Huw, "how cool is "dis"? Do the children have things like "dis" in Australia?". Thankfully Huw was smart enough not to pull his smartphone out and show him pictures of the acres of playing fields, athletic equipment and high tech gadgets. "Yes, Stanzin, we have swings like this is Australia too".
Stanzin replied, "I am glad, sir. It's great that the kids in Australia can have as much fun as I do on this".
You can already see what a legend this little Stanzin was.
My final story is of Stanzin playing cricket during break time. Now for anyone that knows cricket, India is the one place in the world where cricket is like a religion. And considering how many of the children wanted to play cricket, getting to bat was a big deal.
One break time, Stanzin was batting and doing very well, scoring lots of runs. Most kids would have been desperate to have a bat for as long as he did, so he was in a very envious position.
Suddenly Stanzin noticed a girl on her own, not interacting with anyone and looking sad. He immediately put down his bat so someone else could have a go and made his way over to give the girl some company and someone to play with.
That act alone brought a tear to both Huw and my eye.
We can learn from Stanzin that he naturally lived in a way where he was Grateful for what he had/ could do, empathetic and compassionate to those around him and on the other side of the world.
He was extremely grateful for his ability to play on a broken swing. He was empathetic when padding the door frames so his teacher wouldn't hurt himself again. Stanzin showed great compassion that children in Australia could experience the same joy he did on his broken swing and make sure other children in his school felt included, and they mattered.
These were only a few of the stories that showed how special little Stanzin was, many of which genuinely brought a tear to my eye.
I loved these stories as they gave me perspective on how much we have here in the west, yet how overworked and unhappy we can be.
If we are grateful for our "dis", whatever that means for us, show empathy and compassion to those we know and those we don't, not only can we make ourselves happy, but also those near and dear to us.
Yours in health.