Are you happy? Are you happy 50% of the time? Are you happy 25% of the time? What makes you happy? What makes you the happiest? Despite the last year of financial melt down, our standard of living and average wages have increased greatly in the last 20 or 30 years. Despite this increase, our happiness scales have not increased at all. In fact, on average they have decreased slightly. With all due respect to the millions of dollars spent daily on television, radio, and print ads telling us to have more stuff, take newer and better pills, and eat new and varied food, doing these things isn't enough to make us happy.
A majority of the people I see are grandparents or great-grandparents. What do you think is the number one thing that makes them happy? It's grandchildren, right? My youngest daughter, who turns 4 this week, stands in every Sunday as a proxy grandchild for many of them. They see her and their eyes light up, they start talking in gibberish and acting silly just to get her attention for a few fleeting seconds. It's a joy to watch, and a joy for them to participate in this relationship with her. It's also a joy for her to feel so loved and appreciated.
My daughter doesn't care how much money these people have. She doesn't care how many cars they own, the square footage of their house, or the size of the 401k. It's the relationship that is important. Jesus, in his ministry, was all about relationships. He didn't just sit in the synagogue and teach, he went out, walked among the crowds, picked people with whom to have a meal. What was the response of the people? They followed him in droves of thousands. They yearned for a relationship, any relationship. Because of Jewish purity laws, many of them were outcasts, separated from good society, and forgotten. What Jesus offered them was a God who could and desperately wanted to relate to each and everyone of them.
Joy comes from our relationships. It's what John Wesley, the creator of Methodism, called social holiness. He understood that our faith development and our relationship with God is tied to our relationship with those around us. Since Jesus spent most of his time with the outcast, and the poor, John Wesley also surmised that our social holiness needs to be directed to poor and outcast of our day.
Are you happy? Are you willing to open your hearts to others, thus allowing an opening for happiness to get in? Stop and talk to your neighbors. Stop and talk to the people you pass along the street. Stop and talk, laugh, love, and live. Experience true joy and happiness.