I work very, very hard at believing in people.
I know terrible things happen; that there are flies eating out the corners of starving children's eyes and that some women have seen their husbands chopped up by machetes while they were still alive and that there are people born capable of looking a human being in the eye without actually seeing them.
I have spent whole years sleeping with my hands in fists and waking up more tired than I was when I went to bed; I have stayed awake all night wondering why I continue to eat and shower and work when I will only get older and slower and more bruised, when all of the people I love will leave me or die, when there are no guarantees that anything will ever get better. I have wondered if death is perhaps a perferable alternative to attempting to deal with loss, which will only ever get larger and heavier.
I believe in God but I do not believe in rewards or fate or a plan of any sort; I think good and evil are constructs of the human mind and that everything is the product of random chance and the consequences of our own choices; I do not think that being a good person has any sort of payoff, or that bad people will or even should be punished.
But I am a happy person.
It's not because I ignore the fact that life is difficult and painful. I don't tune it all out and put my iPod on and hope it will go away; I think about these difficulties often. I am not always happy, but I choose to try to be. Sometimes I fail. But sometimes I don't.
I was unhappy most of the time for nearly five years of my life, and the worst thing about it was how unhappy my unhappiness made the people I loved. I made their lives difficult. I was unpleasant to hang out with, obsessive and close-minded, and I drained them. God bless them, they put up with me anyway, but it was a long five years for everybody. And I don't want to do it anymore.
I don't want to add to human misery. God knows there's enough of it to go around; and I can't control where or when miserable events will occur in my life. But I can control the way I react to them, and I can control whether or not I hurt other people, so I do. I choose to be happy, and to treat people kindly, and to look for the best in them--not because I believe or even hope that the universe is a benevolent place, but rather because I believe that nobody else is freakin' gonna.
No one else is required to keep their machetes away from my vital organs; no one else is even required to be happy or polite. If I want someone to be nice, I have to do it. If I want someone in this world to do the best they possibly can, the only real candidate is me.
So please, in the name of the holiday season, and life not sucking more than it already does, if you meet a happy person, don't try to change them. Don't try to make them see what's "real," and don't assume that they haven't experienced pain. You're not enlightening the ignorant; you're adding to human misery. And for some people, their attempts at bringing happiness to you are the only thing that makes their lives meaningful and worthwhile. Don't take it away from them.