"The pursuit of happiness lies at the core of human endeavors. People around the world aspire to lead happy and fulfilling lives free from fear and want, and in harmony with nature."
- United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon
On March 20th we celebrate International Day of Happiness. I wish I could take credit for coming up with the idea, but the United Nations beat me to it last year when they chose March 20th as the day to celebrate the pursuit of lasting happiness. In this global celebration, the UN challenges us as individuals to reclaim happiness and aspire to lead positive and fulfilling lives. Organizations around the world have set out to celebrate this day with events, activities, and community service to encourage people to pledge to create more happiness in the world around us. To start, one group, Action for Happiness, encourages individuals to take a picture of something that makes us happy and share it on social media with other people around the world using the hashtag #happinessday. All of the images are shared live and posted to the photo wall at Day of Happiness.
I love the idea of encouraging everyone to share images of genuine happiness, and for my small part of this day I wanted to double up on happiness with a photo project of my own — where I would share pictures and stories of people who create happiness in their own lives by making other people happy.
In honor of the UN’s International Day of Happiness, here are my visions of happiness:
Every week for the past four years, Marcia takes her specially-trained certified therapy dogs, Layla and Ringo, to local nursing homes to visit, cuddle, and love the residents.
“I started pet therapy because my dogs bring me a joy that I must share with people who don’t have dogs anymore because they can’t. During these visits with the dogs, you see something resonate inside the residents, and when it does, you see life.”
I thought nothing captured that more than Marcia’s story of visiting a resident who had suffered a stroke, becoming completely unresponsive. But when Marcia placed Layla in the resident’s lap, she smiled. This amazed everyone at the nursing home and also demonstrates how we connect with our pets and how much happiness they can bring.
Her father and brother both served in the military, so her dream job was to help returning veterans — and she is now living that dream. Tiffany helps homeless American vets get back on their feet and return to living happy productive lives. These are men and women who gave so much, yet lost everything. She works to provide them with housing, medical care, job placement, and anything else they may need to get their lives back on track. Knowing the value these veterans find in her assistance, Tiffany says, “For me, showing veterans in need that there are people who really care about them makes me really happy.”
Ed delivers happiness. He’s a florist and you’d think just working around beautiful flowers all day would be enough to make anyone happy, but what makes Ed the happiest is when he personally delivers a bouquet of flowers. “When I approach someone with an arrangement their face just lights up — to bring them happiness in that way brings me happiness and puts a smile on my face.”
Matt is a musician and songwriter. When he’s on stage looking out into a sea of faces with hands in the air, smiling and singing along, he believes there’s just no greater thrill. But as much energy as he gets from the crowds, it’s his one-on-one interactions that make his heart sing. “When people come up to me and tell me about how much a song means to them, that’s what really makes me happy. I don’t necessarily think of songs being able to speak to somebody else on such a deep level, but when they do, it’s just really a cool thing.”
When there's a disaster somewhere in the world, Dave is there. He literally hops on a plane and helps, by delivering everything from rice to clean water and mosquito nets to medicine. But he delivers more than just supplies: he makes people smile with his camera. Whether it’s making silly faces to get a laugh out of the children, or the beaming smiles of parents who come running out to ask Dave to take a picture of their kids even though they only see the image for a moment, each moment means a lot. Dave finds his journeys fulfilling “because you know you really made some people happy that day.”
That’s a quick look at five people who are made happy by making other people happy. I hope their stories have inspired you to share a little happiness all over the world. Try it. There’s a good chance that sharing what makes you happy will make somebody else happy, too.
Scott Kelby is the Editor and publisher of Photoshop User Magazine and President of KelbyOne.com. He is the co-host of the highly acclaimed weekly videocast The Grid, and teaches photography, Lightroom and Photoshop workshops around the world.
Scott is an award-winning author of more than 50 books, including The Digital Photography Books, The Adobe Photoshop Book for Digital Photographers, The Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Book for Digital Photographers, and Light It, Shoot It, Retouch It: Learn Step by Step How to Go from Empty Studio to Finished Image
For more on Scott, see his blog www.scottkelby.com.Scott is part of The Opener , an exclusive, invite-only contributor network that will bring the best food, culture, and innovation writing to the pages of