He lived in a 10’ X 10’ home he built himself on a muddy lot, but he lived there with his wife and two kids and he was the happiest person I have ever met. I met this man in Santiago Chile back in 2004. His home was mostly finished and boy was he proud of it. He couldn’t afford many materials, but he made it as nice as he possibly could. He collected scraps from construction sites and found the best price for whatever he had to buy. He took great care to build his tiny home perfectly. When I first went to his house, winter was about to start, so he was in the process of filling his walls with styrofoam he had collected from various sources.
He had been out of work for a long time and was still looking for a job, but in the mean time, he and his wife made caramel filled churros to sell to commuters and shoppers downtown while their kids were in school. He had a passion for exercise, but couldn’t afford equipment, so he had a metal bar with buckets of rocks and dirt that he would use for weight training. His positive attitude and happiness were infectious, so his wife and kids were also some of the happiest people I’ve met.
He had big dreams of adding a kitchen, bedrooms, and a bathroom to his little home. He knew the future was going to be better, but he never let it stop him from savoring every minute of the present. One time I asked him how he could be so happy all the time. He said he is unhappy sometimes, but he figures “being sad makes [him] more sad than being sad makes other people sad”. He believed other people had a higher tolerance for unhappiness, and were more willing to put up with it than he was. He just didn’t see the point in negative emotions and thought that if everyone hated being sad as much as he did, everyone would enjoy life a little more.
His secret to happiness was gratitude. He had dreams of being a fitness instructor and living in a larger and nicer home, but at the same time he was so grateful that people were buying his churros and he had shelter and food for his family. He was grateful for every new day and saw it as an opportunity to better his family’s situation, even if it was adding scraps of styrofoam to his walls so winter wouldn’t be quite as cold, or finding someone he could pay “rent” to so that his family could use their bathroom to shower a couple times a week.
Thanksgiving makes me think of him, and thinking of him motivates me to be grateful, no matter my circumstances.