According to the 2021 statistics of Nigeria, the third richest person there was Femi Otedola. In a Radio interview, he was asked about those happiest moments in his life, which he remembers. He replied that he had been through four stages of happiness in life but only very lately could he identify the real. Femi explained:
“In the first stage, my focus was on earning money and acquiring social status. Next, it was collecting precious things and then becoming a monopolist. In spite of the 95% share I had in diesel deals in Africa and being the proud owner of the biggest fleet of vehicles, I could not reach that intended inner joy.
“It was a small incident, which happened during a wheelchair distribution function in which I was personally present at the request of one of my friends that changed my concepts on happiness. Some 200 handicapped children were there. I personally distributed wheel chairs to all of them. I saw how excited those children were; they drove their cycles all around. But one of them fell on my feet holding my legs tight. I asked her if she needed anything more.” She replied, “I love to see your face again. When I meet you in heaven, I will not forget you and miss a chance to say thank you once more.” Femi said that it was the first time, he experienced what real happiness is.
At one time, within a small span of 9 weeks, Femi had lost 400 million dollars. He could come back like a phoenix bird. Femi said that it was not even this heroic return, which he considers to be the happiest moment in his life.
According to a UNO study on the happiest people, on top comes countries like Finland, Denmark and Norway. I have also heard that the UAE has an exclusive portfolio and minister for happiness matters. The UN study confirms that it’s neither the richest nor the religious extremists that are the happiest.
I remember the story of an eight-year-old Cub Scout member. Cub Scouts belong to an international community of little children under the minimum age for Scouts and Guides. According to the story, a little Gilbert came first in a toy car contest. He was contesting with a car which he had home brewed for himself. In every round he continued to be the winner. And there came the very final! Before the contest, he knelt down and with folded hands prayed for a while; and he won. Again, he knelt down and prayed for a while. The coach asked him if he was praying to become the first. Gilbert replied, “That’s not fair! My prayer was for the necessary energy to stand the failure if that was what happened.”
Femi with all his levels of happiness experiences, the girl who fell at the feet of Femi and the Gilbert who won the contest give us a message – real happiness is a byproduct of what we do.
A little girl and her father were crossing a bridge. The father was a little scared; he asked his little daughter, “Sweetheart, please hold my hand so that you don’t fall into the river.” The little girl said, “No, Dad. You hold my hand.”
“What’s the difference?” asked the puzzled father. “There’s a big difference,” replied the little girl.
“If I hold your hand and something happens to me, chances are that I may let your hand go. But if you hold my hand, I know for sure that no matter what happens, you will never let my hand go.”