Why Can’t We Buy Happiness?

Friday 5:21 pm, I step out of a 30-seater bus while eying tens of kids looking up surprised as though it were their first time seeing a bus (or maybe it truly was their first). My right foot touches the ground feeling like an alien visiting earth with no knowledge of what’s about to unfold. As soon as my left foot follows my right one to meet the sand, my self isn’t mine anymore.

Where I come from, Friday is usually a family day. We all get together, share a meal and have fun (i.e. a traditional pursuit to unwind from a week full of stress and get ready for another coming week full of stress). That Friday was no different yet completely different; I wasn’t home but my soul was, they weren’t family but their souls were. That bus dropped me off at the community center of village 3 in Alazraq Syrian Refugee Camp in Jordan.

Race!!” I shouted from the top of my lungs for the kids to race me without a clue where I was going or where the finish line might be, but we raced anyway. Breathing heavily after the race, I asked Ubadah, one of the kids, “do you know Superman?” He innocently smiled at me and said, “no”. I was shocked so I asked him another question to avoid the embarrassment, “do you want to fly?” He stepped back with fear and said, “please, no”. My embarrassment turned into shame when I realized that flying to him wasn’t a symbol of freedom, it’s a symbol of war and bombshells.

I couldn’t help but to seize the moment and show Ubadah what flying really felt like, so I grabbed him gently with both my arms and asked him to spread his angelic hands. We went on a circle flight that was 30 thousand feet level in his imagination. My life suddenly turned into microseconds as if I were in slow motion with his genuine giggles echoing and the beautiful sunset in the background. We safely landed having a new perception of flying and hopeful about Ubadah’s next freedom journey, but this time back to Syria.

Ubadah, Abdulrahman, Hamza, Amjad, Elham, Esra and my new family members aren’t living a “happy” life by our, unfortunately, materialistic standards. They live under a dollar a day in a 6 by 4 square-meter portables that accommodate a family of six. Yet Abdulrahman, an 11-year-old boy, managed to have a dream of being a swimmer without even knowing how to swim; how could he know anyway when he most likely never even saw a pool in his entire life in the first place? When I asked about the reason of his audacious dream, he said, “when I shower (fill a water bucket and pour it onto his body), I can hold my breath for 30 seconds.”

How could such a kid have that audacity to dream big by doing such a simple thing with little resources? How could he boost my positivity, happiness, and energy when the whole purpose of my trip was to give it to him and not receive it? So I asked, why can’t money buy dreams and happiness? I failed but to realize that each one of us is born with an image of a dream in our minds and a candle of happiness in our hearts. Our dreams aren’t out there on the lookout, they’re inside our imagination and all we have to do is close our eyes to see and believe in them. Our “pursuit” of happiness in and of itself is blowing the candle out; it’s already there so why pursue it? Our happiness and dreams aren’t for sale; just like Ubadah’s flying to his land of happiness while Abdulrahman’s swimming to the island of his dreams.


  1. May Allah bless you, Sultan. That was a great read. I enjoyed every letter. I hope, one day, to get a chance to volunteer like you did. May Allah bless you and your family with more happiness.


    1. Thank you so much Mohammed. I appreciate your feedback. It was indeed a life changing experience and you and the rest of the volunteers made it ever more impactful. And I genuinely thank you for that.


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