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We ignite personal growth, engage in loving community and serve with integrity.
by Rev. Peter Friedrichs
What does happiness look like to you? What does it mean to be “happy”?
I’m actually asking you these questions, and I invite you to respond. In words. Out loud. It’s okay; I’ll wait.
I was recently asked those questions in an interview conducted by one of our young adults who was working on a school project. It was rather surprising to me that I had a hard time articulating an answer. I could describe happy times in my life. I could describe certain feelings and emotions that made me aware of my happiness. But to tell someone else what happiness is, what it means to you? That was a whole lot harder.
Charles Schulz, creator of the Peanuts comic strip, once said (in reference to Charlie Brown’s relationship with Snoopy), “Happiness is a warm puppy.” A member of the church who makes his own wine recently posted on Facebook (with an accompanying picture): “Happiness is walking into my garage to the smell of a Sonoma Valley winery and hearing the yeast that was added to the grape juice turn the sugar in the fruit into alcohol.”
Clearly, happiness means different things to different people!
The author Elizabeth Gilbert writes: I am so stubborn about living a happy life — about pushing toward the light, climbing up that hill toward wonder. I don’t know if people realize sometimes what a full-time job it is. Waiting for happiness to fall on your head out of the sky isn’t going to get you there. Stubborn gladness doesn’t come out of nowhere; you fight for it. You push back against despair. I look hard for miracle and beauty and joy every day.
While I don’t necessarily like her violent imagery – the idea of “fighting” for happiness – I do agree with her attitude of dogged persistence in seeking out happiness. As Unitarian Universalists, we are committed to striving for peace, justice and equality, which I see as preconditions to societal happiness.
We are also a hopeful people. Like Gilbert, we collectively “push toward the light.” While events around the globe weigh heavily on our hearts, we plant seeds of hope and nurture tender shoots of happiness.
Getting back to the question the interviewer asked: “What is happiness?” After describing many of the times I’ve been most happy in my life, I realized that they all had one thing in common. They were times when I felt “connected.” Connected to people, or connected to nature, or connected to my sense of identity, and belonging, and calling. Happiness is connection. It’s about being in relationship with others, and being present to and aware of the power of those connections.
UUCDC is a place where we can experience and participate in the transforming power of community. We’re a place where we encourage each other to form those deep connections that create our own happiness and the happiness of those around us. We don’t just wait for happiness to fall on our heads out of the sky. I feel so blessed to be a part of a community where we make and sustain these close connections, where we support each other, where we can climb up that hill toward wonder together.
From October 2014 Focus
(Photo by Dennis Leeper)
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