From time to time, I give consideration to the subject of happiness, my own and others'. This kind of reflection is generally prompted by a biblical text that forces me in sermon form to delve into the meaning and elusiveness of joy. Today I am thinking about a sermon I heard last evening that reminded me how prone I am to making myself unhappy by focusing on the negative and a Newsweek article on Deborah Norville's new book about gratitude that made the same point in a more secular context. Bottom line: A key ingredient to happiness is gratitude.
To be sure, there is much that is wrong in and with the world today. Unending conflict in Iraq, escalation of rhetoric as a prelude to war in Iran, genocide in Darfur, oppression in Myanmar, worldwide violence against women, expansion of the prison industrial complex, poverty, not to mention racism, sexism, classism in the society and in the church. But even with all that is bad, with all that needs to be addressed, there is still much good in the world and in my life.
Every day that God sends, there are many reasons for me to give thanks and to know contentment, though not complacency. While there are perhaps a few people who hate me or dislike me intensely, there are far more who love me, affirm my personhood and my gifts, and wish me well. While I have had my share of disappointments, there have been far more moments when I have been pleasantly surprised by extravagant blessings. My life has not turned out to be exactly what I ordered, but mostly that's a good thing. And the truth is that, as a good friend once declared, "happiness is a choice" for me.
As for the evil and wrong in the world, there is still good news in that there remain some activists, thinkers, clergy, grass roots organizers, and even a few politicians who have not yet become callous to the needs of those who suffer. Some courageous people reject racism, sexism, and classism in themselves, in the church, and the community. There are still some people who believe in the possibility of a better life and better world. A world in which everyone would have the luxury I have overused of being unhappy because of the little things.