by Father Mark Goldasich
“Are ya happy?”
The question caught me by surprise. It was asked during lunch this past summer by a college friend that I hadn’t seen for almost 30 years. Wow, talk about getting right to the heart of things.
I said, “Yeah, I am,” and went on to describe some of the many reasons for my answer. But it’s a question I keep mulling over.
Last week, I wrote about trifectas and once again, we have another: this time, dealing with happiness. This coming Fourth Sunday of Lent, for example, is known in Latin as Laetare (“rejoice”) Sunday. While some may feel we’re rejoicing because Lent is half over, the real rea-son is our disciplines of prayer, fasting and almsgiving are making us ever more aware of the salvation, the freedom, that the Lord is giving to us.
Secondly, spring starts on March 20, signaling that the gray and cold days of winter are losing their grip on our weather and our spirits. Hooray!
Lastly, March 20 is also the U.N. International Day of Happiness, encouraging us to “create a happier and kinder world together by adopting simple, daily practices.” This year’s theme is: Be Mindful. Be Grateful. Be Kind.
Couldn’t the world use a shot of happiness? It’s heartwarming to know that all 193 U.N. member states “have adopted a resolution calling for happiness to be given a greater priority.” Even better, this special day notes a worldwide shift in attitudes as “people are now recognizing that ‘progress’ should be about increasing human happiness and well-being, not just growing the economy.”
How can you find happiness? This story provides a valuable lesson:
A well-to-do woman complained to her psychiatrist that she felt her whole life was empty, devoid of meaning. Surprisingly, the doctor called over the elderly woman who cleaned the office and said to his patient, “I’m going to ask Mary here to tell you how she found happiness. All I want you to do is listen.”
Mary leaned against her broom and said, “Well, my husband died of malaria and three months later, my only child was killed by a car. I had nobody, nothing left. I couldn’t sleep, eat or smile.
“Then one evening, a kitten followed me home from work. I felt sorry for it. Because it was cold, I let the kitten in and got it some milk. After licking the bowl clean, the kitten purred and rubbed against my leg and, for the first time in months, I smiled.
“I thought: If helping a kitten made me smile, maybe doing something for people would do the same. So, the next day, I baked some biscuits for an ailing neighbor. From then on, every day, I did something nice for someone. It made me so happy to see them happy.
“Today, I don’t know of anybody who sleeps and eats better than I do. I’ve found happiness by giving it to others.”
Hearing the story, the patient was brought to tears and realized that the beauty of life doesn’t depend on how happy you are, but on how happy others can be because of you. (Story adapted from “Seeking Happiness,” found in Meir Liraz’s “Top 100 Motivational Stories.”)
Of course, Jesus said it much more succinctly, “The Son of Man has not come to be served but to serve.”
So, for a truly happy — blessed — life, go and do the same.
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