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It was July of 2016 when my perspective flipped. I was on a mission trip in Detroit for the week. We were having a cookout in Cass Park, and everyone in downtown Detroit was welcome. There was food, inflatables, a concert, and hundreds of people crowding like bees entering their nest. But one specific experience that day changed my outlook on life forever.
I was walking around the crowded little park, smiling at everything that caught my eye. Everyone was so kind, and it encouraged me to be kind.You feel so alive when you're happy. And sometimes, you don't figure out the happiness you really had, until the happiness ends. You see, what most people don't realize is that there is defined difference between joy and happiness. Happiness is joy because of the current circumstance, while joy is happiness no matter what the circumstance is. Then and there, I was filled with happiness. I kept walking, scouting out people to start a conversation with. The pebbles under my feet seemed to follow me as a walked. I stopped to watch some kids play. They were playing duck duck goose in a tightly packed circle. They all smiled at each other and giggled like they had a hidden secret locked in the depths of that deformed circle. One small girl with cornrows and a t-shirt that drowned her like a dress approached me immediately. She waddled up to me and looked up at me with her sparkling brown eyes. I've never seen such a dull color shine so bright. She took my hand with a smile so wide, I couldn't resist but let her pull me in any direction she pleased. She brought me over to the small circle and cocked her head looking up at me.
“Will you play with us?” She squealed.
“Yes!” I said smiling. I sat down on the ground and she plopped right into my lap. I scanned the circle examining all the faces around me. All the kids had the brightest of smiles on their faces. They

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curled up in a little ball, clenched their hands, and shook with excitement waiting to be called a goose. One small boy tapped me on the head, and I popped back into reality out of my daze.
I realized shortly after, that this little girl was still sitting on my lap, and she wasn't planning on moving anytime soon. So, I worked with the issue and picked her up like a baby and started to run, aiming to tag the little boy who chose me. The dead grass flew off the ground behind my feet as I ran. She bounced up and down, her tiny head bobbing. She was so precious. She laughed so hard I expected tears to come running out of her eyes like a drain. Belly laughs. The little boy slid on his knees in the yellow grass on account of not being tagged. I spun the tiny girl around in a circle, her feet dangling. She laughed and laughed. I sat back down on the ground with her on my lap. I looked at her, now giggling myself.
“Was that fun?” I said with a smirk.
“Yes!” she said, her bursting laugh slowing to a giggle. She looked up at me, her tightly woven cornrows resting on my chest and exclaimed,
“I love you.”
I smiled so wide my mouth ached. Then and there I realised something; these kids were filled with unending amounts of joy. And I wanted to be just like them. These kids had so little to nothing, yet their happiness shined through them brighter than the sun. At first I didn't understand, but then I figured out this exact theory; happiness is joy because of the current circumstance, while joy is happiness no matter what the circumstance is. And where can we find inner joy? Within love. Love for places, love for people, love for Jesus, and love for life. And that's what these kids had. They didn't place their happiness in material things like the latest IPhone, but in the happiness of others, and making the simplest of memories with the deepest of meanings. And I wanted to be just like them.
On the ride home, I thought a lot. About my life as a whole, about my accomplishments so far at 14 years old, and how I was so lucky. I wasn't like the kids in Cass Park. I have a home, and virtually everything I want is handed to me. Yet these kids were so much happier. Their happiness poured out of them like new paint, yet some nights they didn't have meals. I didn't know why that was their life and this was mine, but what I did know was this; I have an amazing life at my fingertips, and I would live it to the fullest. I would do this by showing joy to everyone. Having joy, creating joy, and living in the midst of it. I promised this to myself, forever.

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