What Makes You Happy

I recently posed the question to my third grade students, “What makes you happy?” Anticipating answers such as, “my D.S.” or “silly bands”, I was surprised when they each answered something money couldn’t buy. “My family”, “watching the sunset”, “being with friends”, and “when my parents are proud of me”, were among the replies I received. I was impressed. So impressed in fact, that I decided we would write and publish a class book about what makes us happy. It also got me thinking of my own personal life and what makes me feel happy. So I started a list.

Of course, my list included going on vacations, eating out, and renovating my home. But once I felt my list was long enough, I went back and crossed out anything that can only be obtained with money. Looking at my edited list, I smiled at what I saw. My son’s laugh, my mother’s embrace, simply my husband’s presence, and my family’s health is what brings true happiness and contentment.

I put my list away, to come back to later, and took my son out to play in the yard. I decided not to take any of his toys out, and he didn’t seem to mind. I think he loved the acorns and leaves more than his $400 toy car. We chased each other and played on the cool grass until we got tired and hungry. We each took a warm bath and put on some cozy pajamas. Alhamdulela for warmth. As I was preparing dinner, my husband drove up the driveway and opened the garage. My son heard the garage door opening, and squealed with happiness. He slid down the stairs to greet his father. “Baba!” he called, as he threw himself into his father’s arms.

In this busy world, it’s not always easy to take the time to think about what to do for others, or as importantly, for yourself to obtain happiness. Or, we may know what makes us happy but don’t take the time to make it happen or thank Allah for giving it to us. It’s so easy to take things for granted.

So go on, make a list. What makes you happy?


Hoda is a wife and a mother to a stillborn daughter in heaven and a one year old son. She is an elementary public school teacher and lives in Virginia.








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About Marwa Aly
  • Susan

    These moments can get burried under the demands of our busy lives.  This is a beautiful way to reflect.

  • Rukaiyah Hill

    I loved your story. I have two kids; a son, who is now 17 (going on 30) and a daughter, 14, who is content to be her age. Forget money in order to be happy. Some of my best moments have been just sitting with my two teenagers (who are not your typical teenagers, they actually enjoy being with their Mom!) to laugh and joke and share our thoughts on life. Kids–they enrich your life and it gets better as you and they grow older—I can’t imagine my life without my kids. Rukaiyah Hill, American Muslim living happily in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia 2010