Why are you so happy?

The Dorothy Day Center for Faith and Justice’s weekly Community Night on Monday is always a center fold for genuine conversation. This week was no exception.

It all started with a simple conversation starter: “How are you doing?”
Simple enough, it’s a harmless way to start a senseless conversation. Most everyone asks this question on the daily. The change happened from a response to my answer: “Not bad, I’m in a good mood!” When I said it, I didn’t think much behind it, in my head it was just a generic response. To make a long conversation short, we began talking about the importance of being happy, about how have the appearance or attitude of happiness can not only help to make you personally feel happy but those around you.

It took me time to some time to realize the importance of being happy, the importance of a smile, but once that philosophy became clear it stuck with me. In March of 2009, I gave the following speech during the Xaverian Brother’s Sponsored Schools Retreat to nearly 150 high school juniors who came to Connecticut to represent their perspective Xaverian Brother’s high school. While the speech may be a few years removed, the message continues to reflect how I interact with those I meet today.

I’m here today to give a witness talk,

but to tell you the truth, I’m not really sure what exactly I’m supposed to say in a witness talk, because each of us witness god in our life differently.

But not only do each of us witness God differently, we also witness God in the different things that we do.

Before I get into how I witness God

I thought I would first tell you what my image of God is

so that you at least know what I’m looking for.

My image of God is of a beautiful five year old girl,


My Image of God

that I, along with Nick Ruppelt and a couple other students from St. X, built a house for when we went on a Mission Trip to Belize.

That leads me to my first example of witness: Service.

Through service, we are doing the works of Jesus,

we are answering the call of what it means to live out a Christian life.

I personally have been very lucky with the many service opportunities that have come my way.  As I mentioned earlier, this past summer I was fortunate enough to spend a week in Belize.  While there, I witnessed a side of the world that few have ever seen for themselves.

Garbage covered and layered the ground upon which we walked.

Everywhere we turned the beauty of their world was masked by the garbage of ours.

But when I returned home,

I realized that our would was missing something

that I saw everywhere I turned when I was in Belize.

And it wasn’t the garbage,

it was the lesson that I learned from Zenobia.

In a place where she had nothing,

she had something I didn’t,

she had peace and love.

She taught me, Ministered to me, she showed me what it was like to be happy.

In a place that could offer nothing for the rest of the world,

she appeared to hold the world in her hands.

She ministered to me in a very unique way,

a way that most of us don’t have the opportunity to do.

But each of us do have the opportunity to minister,

because it is through ministry that we get another chance to witness God in our lives.

At St. X I’m know as,

primarily to the underclassmen who don’t know me as well,

as “The Prayer Dude,” because each day

I start the school morning with,

a bright smile,

a “Good Morning! St. X” and the morning prayer.

However, you don’t have to minister in the religious sense of the word.

You can minister to the people around you,

your friends, your family, and even the person sitting next to you.

When you are ministering to someone,

you are sharing a piece of yourself with them;

you’re Inspiring them to share in your service.

Inspiration is the next way you have the chance to witness Christ.

Throughout our life we will come across hundreds of people,

some for moments,
some for years on end.

Either way, the people we meet will leave some lasting effect on us.

Just this past week, the Xaverian community lost a great man,

Brother Hugo Hammer.

At age 17, about the same age that most of you all are,

Brother Hugo became a Xaverian the exact same year that he graduated from St. X.

For the last few years,

when he wasn’t as capable of teaching in a classroom,

he would stand outside of the chemistry lab,

where he spent so much time, and greet the students as they passed by.

Every day we could expect a,

“Good Morning!”

and on Fridays those,

“Good Mornings!”

would change to a jolly,

“Good Morning! TGIF!”

He lived for the students.

Brother Hugo had a Doctorate in Biology

and was an all-around Science genius.

Anytime a student needed help in science, biology, physics, and especially chemistry,

he would always be waiting in his room,

ready to assist in anyway he could.

There is one other thing I need to mention about Brother Hugo,

he was a rather imposing man,

standing at the towering height

of about … 5 feet.

This man of a rather staggering height

generally didn’t stand out in a crowd.

Often during the changing of classes,

he would get swept away in the rush of the crowd.

This man who often blended in with the crowd

left an impression on me that I will never forget,

and that is to

“Live in the Moment” and to

“witness the Extraordinary in the ordinary.”

Those last two points,

I think, are the two most powerful and important points.

Living in the moment,” and “finding the Extraordinary in the ordinary.”

Now if you’re one of those avid “Wheel of Fortune” fans

then you’ve probably been aware of what I’ve been spelling out.


Revealing my S.M.I.L.E



Inspiring Others.

Living in the Moment.

and Finding the Extraordinary in the ordinary.

Now I know we’ve only been here for a little over a day,

but you may have noticed that I smile quite a lot.

I smile for two reasons.

The first is because of Zenobia, who I told you about earlier.

She smiled all the time,

and when she smiled, I smiled; we all smiled.

The second reason is because of the daily,

“Good Mornings!” I used to receive.

When you live in the moment,

you are happy with and present with the here and now,

not concerned about some random project thats due in a week,

you’re just happy to be in the present.

When you’re living in the precious present

you can see things in a new light,

you witness the extraordinary in the ordinary.

When you witness the extraordinary

you can relish the beauty in a flower

or the smile of a friend or stranger.

Just think about it for a second,

when your walking down the hall at school,

or hanging out at the mall,

and some random person looks over and smiles at you.

It happens everyday,

but when it happens you think about it,

and you probably say to yourself,

“Hey that dude just smiled at me.”

But no matter how you think about it,

what are you doing?

You’re smiling too.

That one simple smile, spreads to you, and inspired you to smile.

That person gave you a great service by allowing you to share in his smile.

A smile is how I see God,

because a smile makes me think,

a smile reminds me of the beautiful Zenobia, who touched me in Belize.

A smile shows me the happiness in others;

a smile reminds me of the laughter of our childhood on a playground during recess.

What does a smile remind you of?

Tomorrow, when you go about your day,

think about what a smile means to you,

and share that with someone else.

Allow them to see the face of God in you.

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