Megan F. and her best friend, Rebekah

Megan F.
"You have brought me joy again," I nonchalantly shared with my best friend, Rebekah, over sandwiches at a Chicago diner. It was a few weeks after she relocated from Arizona. It was a matter of fact. After years of searching through classmates, careers, boys, stores and bars, I realized that the best things, though the simplest things, could completely transform my life. Many may find us odd, as we find any way to turn moments into photographs; dig through books and records at the Salvation Army, affirming each other's new treasures; or holler at each other wildly as we power walk, in stitches, down Michigan Avenue...but I don't care. Happiness to me goes beyond status or promotion. It is not an unreachable place that I need to earn through merit. People ask us if we're twins, and I correct them, "Partners for life." She corrects me, "Partners for eternity." We are partners in crime. Only a quarter into my life, I'm not sure what the future will hold for me, but I know that I'm safe from ever truly being lost or alone: I have already found a slice of happiness that is just enough for me.

Why a child's love for Oprah makes his mother smile

Tristan reading <i>O</i> magazine

Maricris Y.
I'm a stay-at-home mom with two kids: the older, Lance, is 13 years old and the younger is Tristan, who turned 2 on September 26. I would just like to share how Tristan adores and loves Oprah—I guess he might be the youngest fan Oprah has! Since I'm a stay-at-home mom, I have of plenty of time to watch TV, and I do watch Oprah diligently. Tristan always watches with me, but the adoration he has developed for Oprah is beyond me. My husband takes home O magazines, and Tristan will just go gaga over her and just says "Oprah! Oprah!"

This is a photo of Tristan going over O magazine—seeing the expression on his face once he sees Oprah always cracks me up! It's really very adorable.

How one woman became a mother when the doctors told her it was impossible

Pregnant Elisheba M.

Elisheba M.
The thing that make me happy is my family. I was told by some doctors I may never be able to have children, but I refused to believe it. In 2008, I had 23 fibroids removed from my uterus. The chances of me having a baby were slim to none. I kept praying and believing in God, and I had my daughter in April 2009. When I look at the pictures of my husband and daughter, it just make me the happiest person in the world.

How to make your dreams a reality

Bess I. flying an airplane

Bess I.
I'm a pilot student from the Philippines. I am a small-town girl who dreams big! I used to play paper planes before, but now I am flying planes. Reaching my dreams started when I got a job as an international flight attendant in 1996. I worked as an international flight attendant for 11 years and saved money to be able to pursue my dream of becoming a pilot. I am now in Addison, Texas, doing my pilot training. In August 2009, I passed my FAA check ride and have earned my private pilot license. I am a pilot now!

I am working on my instrument rating, and then my commercial pilot license. The whole process was never easy. I still have to work on a lot of things, but getting a private license is so rewarding. When I look back, I could not really believe that I made it. Though I haven't reached the top yet, achieving the first level makes me so happy. Flying the plane itself feels like ecstasy. I feel like Amelia Earhart in my own little world.

The joy of trying something new

Michelle C. scuba diving

Michelle C.
This past summer, I went to Cancun with some girlfriends for a much-needed vacation. We had a great time relaxing and having fun, but one of my friends wanted to do something a little more adventurous. She asked if I wanted to go scuba diving with her. I was nervous at first, but I said, "Sure!" I've never been diving before; in fact, I'm not a great swimmer and rarely go too deep into the water. However, I figured this was an opportunity to do something new, so I jumped in with both feet (no pun intended).

Here is a photo of me on my first dive. It was an amazing experience, and I felt a combination of happiness, pride and awe at the same time. Taking in the beauty of God's world, both above and below water, was a wonderful experience for me in Cancun.

Why sisterhood is special

Brenda H. and her sisters

Brenda H.
I am proud to say I have seven wonderful sisters. I love them all so much. I would not be the person I am without my sisters. Some of my sisters are/were very much like a mother to me, taking me in when I left home at the age of 15. We have always been there for one another, in good times and bad.

In June 2007, six out of the eight of us were fortunate to be able to take a trip together to Tybee Island. This trip meant so much to us, not just because we would all be together, but because we were given news that one of us was very ill. My sister, Karen, was diagnosed with multiple myeloma. Knowing that life is unpredictable and that we should live life to the fullest with the ones we love made this time together all that much more precious.

My sisters are my encouragers, my protectors, my comic relief, my teachers and my family. I love them with all my heart. Thank you for letting me share my story and the picture that makes me happy.

How helping others can change your life

Women with shoes from Mindy H.

Mindy H.
I applaud Oprah for being such a remarkable advocate for women and children. She truly has inspired others to take up such causes. I want to tell you about a part of the world that is dear to my heart: The Republic of the Marshall Islands. We adopted our first child from the RMI in 1997. This year, we started Soul to Sole, to send shoes to Majuro, the capital. The MI Basketball Federation has formed girls' basketball teams to help keep kids off the street and to help promote self-confidence. To date, we have sent 11 boxes (244 pairs of shoes and 312 pairs of socks).

So far, distributions in Majuro has been made to seven schools and one agency that helps needy women and children. We just printed a wonderful year-end newsletter with photos of the girls holding shoes! We also inspired the FIBA Oceania group in Australia to begin a similar project. They asked our permission to use the same name. I plan on continuing this project for years to come. I would like to see it eventually become a nonprofit organization.

I didn't used to think I could make much of a difference in the world. God has shown me it only takes one life to touch another, which does make a difference. I am thankful for Oprah's efforts worldwide to empower women. I am happy to be a part of that spirit on a much smaller scale.

Discover the power of music

Monique M. performing

Monique M.
I am a singer/songwriter who finished her first album in September 2009! The album has various songs that I wrote: a song for my sister who passed away several years ago, a song for Dr. Nina Simone, a song for women who still have no right to choose, a song about children who are used and abused and, of course, a song about love. I love to spread the word with my music.

Find joy in the great outdoors


Beth B.
I truly enjoy the outdoors and nature. Nature has a wonderful healing component that I found very early in life, but I only realized the value of it when I had breast cancer five years ago. Immediately after my chemotherapy treatments, I began to seek the sun—as if it was healing my body from all the damage of the chemotherapy.

I get outside every day to soak up all the natural beauty that God has given us to enjoy during our lifetimes. What a blessing. I am grateful.

Why it's the simple things that can make you happy


Kari F.
Happiness for me is the simple things. My husband and I walking on an empty beach. Jumping in puddles with my toddler. Watching the delight on my baby's face when she rolls over for the first time. Flowers and bugs and sticks and rocks collected on nature walks. A glass of wine with friends. A glass of wine in the bath. A great book—just finished The Book Thief—amazing! Writing. Yup, the simple things.

Why it's important to love what you do

Megan J. and her students

Megan J.
I teach violin to young children. It's something that brings an immense amount of joy. I stumbled upon this source of happiness after I was laid off nine years ago from a contract position with an engineering company. Each day is filled with new wonders, smiles, laughter and fostered senses of self-worth, accomplishment and self-confidence in young people. As a result of imparting this passion, I have directly touched the lives of hundreds of children. Some have been inspired to compose original works and travel to other countries for universal communication through music. This gift of teaching violin also inspired a benefit recital to raise funds to educate descendants of the African Diaspora in comprehensive black history. As a result of successful participation, the reward was a free trip to Egypt. I feel extremely blessed to be able to do this. I'm humble and grateful for all of the families and students who allow me to come into their lives weekly and leave a lasting impression of optimism, possibility and love.

Why you should pursue your passions

Pink flowers

Sarah J.
Over the last year, photography has became my passion. I want to take me camera everywhere I go. I love to find beauty in the things around me and capture it forever in a photograph. My brother and I went to our local gardens and spent the day taking photos. It was such a lovely day, and it was great to spend time with my beautiful little brother.

How trying something new can change you forever

Amy C. skydiving

Amy C.
Oprah, I watched your "Step Out of Your Box" episode. I have two beautiful children, and my daughter has some delays, so I spend my time running around taking her everywhere that can help her get further. I also care for my grandfather, who is 86 years old and has dementia. My days off are devoted to caring for him. My husband works a lot and is a volunteer firefighter. So when he is not working, he is often at the fire house for one thing or another. So my days are devoted to everyone else but me.

My best friend and I have been going through a phase together, trying to do things for ourselves once and a while. As the women were jumping out of the plane in the episode, I knew it was something we needed to do. I sent her a text: "Want to go skydiving with me?" Followed by a second one: "I am serious." She replied: " When and where? We will be Thelma and Louise." I thought, "There is no backing down now."

I told my husband what I wanted to do and he said okay. I could not believe he did not try to talk me out of it. Now I really had to do it. A few days later, we had our reservations to jump. Sunday came and we jumped—we did it! It was so amazing! Kathy and I want to go again. We even want to be able to take the classes to jump ourselves. It was such a wonderful experience, and if it wasn't for your show, I do not think I would have ever done it. Thank you, Oprah.

How to realize your busiess dreams

Merieta B. at the opening of her store

Merieta B.
I've made my dream a reality! I am a 26-year-old woman who has exceeded my and my family's highest expectations by becoming a young black entrepreneur. My dream had always been to own my own clothing and accessories shop when I was a young girl. I always dreamed about what it would be like when I lived in Mississippi, and as I grew older and moved to New York City and then Connecticut, I finally stepped out on faith and opened Girlie Girl Shop, a handbag and accessories shop for women of all ages. It was with much faith, determination and support from the love of my life that this became a reality. Now, I would like to share with Oprah and the rest of the world my grand opening day of excitement! October 15, 2009, was one of the happiest days of my life!

How to find joy when times are tough

Dellena W. and her husband

Dellena W.
This is a photo taken of my husband and me. We were separated and were going through a divorce. I going through a trying time in my life at the time: a battle with depression, a new job and the change of life. I failed him; yet, he still loved me through it all. I thank the good lord for making us one. So much in life can take you down, but you can rise above it and get past yesterday, for today is what counts.

Find peace in a hobby

Lynda S. kayaking

Lynda S.
Taking my kayak out on the water and floating with my feet up out in front of me makes me happiest. This is my time for me letting the water lead me. It is serenity.

How a photo can trigger happy memories

William K. with his mother

William K.
This is my favorite picture of my mom. It was taken in 1945, and my grandmother took this picture of my mom holding me up. She took her life when I was 17 years old, but I never stop loving her. There is a saying that I heard one time that is one of my favorite: "If the people we love are stolen from us, the way to have them live on is to never stop loving them. Buildings burn, people die, but real love is forever." I feel that Mom is still holding me up and watching over me.

The power of a child's smile

Happy cheerleaders

Kristina M.
There was an episode of The Oprah Show on heroes that had a special needs cheer team on. My daughter also is on a team called Special Forces, and I thank all those helpers who work with these kids. There's a lot in life the kids are not able to do, and to be able to cheer is what they look forward to each week. When they are onstage, you forget that they have disabilities because their faces are bright and smiles are big. It is the greatest and happiest feeling in the world to see your child so happy. I just wanted to share that with you because it's often children with disabilities are overlooked.

Why nothing can break the bond of family

Brandon and Riley

Jill F.
I can't begin to tell you how important this picture is to me. My son Riley is 4 years old and was diagnosed with several disorders on the autistic spectrum. As with any family who has a child with special needs, we have struggled over the last couple of years. My son Brandon, who is 13 years old, has been an incredible source of strength for my husband and me. The days where we are at our breaking point because we are working full time, maintaining the house and dealing with Riley's therapies, that's when Brandon steps up to the plate to help us, whether it's helping with chores, providing us comic relief or helping to keep an eye on his brother.

Riley absolutely adores his older brother, and, at times, it puts an incredible amount of pressure on Brandon. A 13-year-old's biggest worry should be how much homework he has or what to do on the weekends, but for Brandon, it's much more. He tries to provide the balance that we as a family need, and I know I haven't told him enough just how much I appreciate that. This picture reminds me of the hard work that we as a family have done together to find peace, happiness and, most of all, love. This picture shows me an incredible amount of love that two brothers have for each other, no matter how hard life can be at times. This picture is a reminder to me that no matter what, I have two incredible boys who I love and would do anything for each other. This picture is my heart and soul!

How to find enlightenment from helping others

Sarah J. in Kenya

Sarah J.
I realize that my role right now is as a youth of this world; I am an American in a comfortable place in life with opportunity beaming from my fingertips. So far, the sun has always shone through the window of my home and shelter, my stomach rarely growls with hunger pains, and my throat is never so dry that my voice isn't heard. In my possession are things that some people of the world will never get to hold or see. And, through all these blessings in life, I have been extremely fortunate to experience just the opposite in a place that is 5,000 miles away and still under the same set of stars. A place where clean water is a luxury, food to eat is a limited resource and safety is a constant struggle. I am a youth of this world where my role as a global citizen is unfolding each day.

Describing an experience in a slum in words is like trying to write down what a life-after-death experience is like on paper. My first glimpse of the Kwari Slums in Rongai, Kenya, twisted my stomach into a 1,000 knots. When I close my eyes tightly, I still vividly see the surroundings of lined up aluminum shacks, dirty and bumpy trails winding between row after row of lean-tos, and even the not-so-pleasant aroma of sewage pooling in the roads. When I'm in my comfortable bed and mountain of blankets at night, I remember visiting Alice and her family of four in a small shack no bigger than my own room. Her daughters Lydia and Rosa are somewhere out in the world without protection from the constant attack of evil. And like so many other families I was blessed to visit in the Kwari Slums, they all fall asleep to the sound of growling stomachs and scratchy dry throats. My most cherished moment from visiting this place, this most uncomfortable surrounding, was the moment when I learned the meaning of my life: to shine light into the dark places of the world that would otherwise never see it.

Why dogs make great teachers

Dog preforming trick

Pauli R.
I teach pre-K through 5th-grade students the value of thinking and acting with good character. I have a staff of 13—all canine—each demonstrating a certain character trait in a program called PAWS for Character. My staff and I enjoy visiting both conventional and classrooms for autistic students. Here is a photo of a staff member on the job.

Feel bliss from a beautiful sunset


Miriam A.
Happiness for me is watching a beautiful sunset. Everything is still, and you are in the moment, reminded of one of life's beautiful creations. I've traveled to many destinations in the world and have seen many amazing sunsets, but none can compare to the ones on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Each and every time I look at these pictures, I am reminded of one thing...I am in the present...I am in the now...I am.

Why traveling is an adventure

Caroline B. in Japan

Caroline B.
My daughter was living in Japan but was concerned that traveling in a country where I don't speak the language would be too daunting and that she would worry. My friend Jane and I never fulfilled our travel plans when we were younger—kids, marriage, divorce, remarriage, widowhood—well, life happens. I asked her to join me and make our dreams come true. We'd have each other to speak English and cry together if we got lost. With no points of familiar reference, we were empowered, finding our way around, exploring the gardens and temples. I only had my inner self to depend on, an experience without preconceived ideas of how I should feel: peaceful and enlightening. We cried, we laughed—we lived our dream. It's never too late.

Experience the beauty of nature

Tree in the fog

Jasmine J.
This is a picture I took early one foggy morning down the street from my home. This is my most favorite time of the day, when the streets are quiet and most people are still sleeping. This particular morning, it was very ominous and peaceful. What a pleasant drive that was when I noticed this beautiful tree among the fog. I had to pull over and take a photo. Hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

The power of witnessing change

Maureen K. and her daughter

Maureen K.
November 4, 2008: "Change" was the word of President Barack Obama's election. I felt the country really need a change. At the last minute, I talked my 17-year-old daughter to go to downtown Chicago on the train and witness history. Even though we didn't have tickets to the event, I knew it would be something I wanted to share with her. It was truly amazing! We were living in the moment, and it was great.

What does happiness look like to you? Share it with us!

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