Happiness and joy

The day after I attended a funeral for a dear friend, I feel compelled to write about happiness. Dick Miller, with whom I had worked for nearly five years, died suddenly at age 64. The well-attended funeral in Saint Paul was both sad and joyful, but maybe I am confusing my sadness with grief. My tears for Dick acknowledged loss, my own being miniscule compared to that of his wife, three sons and their extended family.

But there was joy in the room too. Dick was a good man, a gentleman if ever there was one. The priest said his life exhibited “quiet virtue.” He further noted that Dick set aside two holy hours per week for prayer before the Blessed Sacrament. Dick had just committed to a third hour so that he could devote one hour to each of his sons. It is a blessed thing to know a truly good man; those of us who knew Dick experienced that blessing. None of us at the funeral had to wonder about this faith-filled man’s eternal fate. He is with his Maker now; I believe his joy must be so abundant that some of it literally spilled over onto us still living in the corporeal world.

Lasting joy is about a solid relationship with God. All through life we can nurture that relationship, and I think happiness helps us to do that. Happiness is, therefore, serious business. And for a long time, I have been a fan of Gretchen Rubin, who wrote a best selling book about it.

I would encourage anyone to read “The Happiness Project.” As a memoir, I like the way she has structured the book, a chapter devoted to each month of the year. There are tons of tips in this book for actually living a happier life. I was pleasantly surprised to discover this to be a very spiritual book. Apparently, I am not the only one who sees the distinction between happiness and joy, and believes that one can lead to the other.

Rubin is a fan of Saint Therese of Lisieux. In her August chapter, she writes about “the Little Flower” and the impact this Doctor of the Church had on her. The beauty of St. Therese, at least as far as I know, has always been her ability to find joy in the little things. The mundane and ordinary were sources of great joy to St. Therese; that has given me something to think about. We take so much for granted; St. Therese calls us into gratitude. Rubin write about gratitude, too. She is so right-on here. The more we thank God for what we have, the less time we spend cursing over what we don’t have. 

Dick figured out a long time ago what Rubin writes and blogs about, albeit sometimes in a round-about way – that happiness comes from God. It takes humility to recognize this fact, but once you get there it’s a great thing. Most of the world won’t go there, and so we have a lot of unhappy, joyless people wondering about. Most people seek happiness in the false promises of the world, that is, sex, wealth, politics, health and education. These are the Holy Grails of our time, as misleading today as they have been since the beginning of time. Each is a great gift, in and of itself, but none can bring lasting happiness.

I am going to remember Dick fondly, keep working on my relationship with God, and keep trying to bring happiness to all those I meet.

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