“I was happy, but happy is an adult word. You don't have to ask a child about happy, you see it. They are or they are not. Adults talk about being happy because largely they are not. Talking about it is the same as trying to catch the wind. Much easier to let it blow all over you.” – Jeanette Winterson, The Passion.
As I reflect on the children that I met on this Klang trip, it could not be better expressed – “You don’t have to ask a child about happy, you see it. They are or they are not”. Children are in that way, transparent with their emotions. Perhaps it is when they learn to hide their emotions, they also lose the joy of being a child.
Over the course of the trip, we interacted with many children, ranging from 6 to 17 years old. Truthfully, it was hard to connect with them. For a start, it is already not easy to connect deeply with so many children at once. Some would privilege us with their stories, but only in snippets, giving us a brief glimpse into their world. It is hard to understand their world, their past. We (or at least, I know I do) get stuck on figuring out what possible emotional baggage they might have. There are so many of them; John, Lai Kok, James, Hussein, Wish, Kee Kee, just to name a few, and I would be stuck on wondering what their childhood was like. But up to a certain point of knowing, you reach an impasse of understanding.
It was through playing, joking, fooling around and relaxing with the children, that I understood a somewhat simple and obvious truth that the children have internalised –happiness comes like the wind. It is difficult to anticipate or to force it in any way. One simply basks in the cooling feeling of the wind. As an adult, one comes to realise that he or she has to work for happiness, in one way or another. But the very state of enjoyment, happiness, is one that is mastered by the children, and forgotten as an adult.
Thinking back, many of the happy times spent with the children were simple ones. There was us playing the train-pulling with the kids, carrying them around. There was eating with them, there was doing forfeits with them, there was listening to Newton and Amanda telling their stories and being dragged around by them. Some like Hussein needs a gentle reminder that it is okay to be fully happy, like a child, every once in awhile.
And in watching and playing with the children, we find ourselves happy, just like them.