Column: A horn of plentyIf anyone were to ask me, I would say my childhood was happy. We lived in a nice house near Lake Harriet. I attended a good school. My parents were still in love and the word divorce was never mentioned in our good Catholic home.
By: Andrea Langworthy, Staff Columnist, Rosemount Town Pages
If anyone were to ask me, I would say my childhood was happy. We lived in a nice house near Lake Harriet. I attended a good school. My parents were still in love and the word divorce was never mentioned in our good Catholic home. My life was full: Girl Scouts, ballet and piano lessons every week. Mass every Sunday. Holidays with the relatives and new cars for my parents after dad finished law school. I had oodles of best friends and we played outside endlessly, no matter the weather. What more could I want?
But Dad’s new career as a lawyer meant a bigger house miles away from the old neighborhood. It meant new friends and my parents’ subsequent unhappiness with each other. It meant my sister and I were sent to boarding schools. I didn’t realize it at the time, but that was when things started to unravel. Up until then, I had been blissfully ignorant of what made me happy. I just was.
A lot has been written about happiness lately. How Amer-icans have been searching for it in big-ticket items like plasma TVs and mega-mansions. In fact, many experts say the reason we are in this financial mess could boil down to our insatiable thirst for more, more, more. A thirst that led many of us to buy things we can’t afford and don’t need. Trinkets and trophies that won’t bring euphoria because they are never enough. Why? Because happiness can only be found inside us. Sound too Oprah for you? Well, let me ask you this: As you sat around your dinner table on Thanksgiving, did you do what my family does? One by one, we each say what we are thankful for. I don’t remember anyone ever ticking off the new car or big-screen television. Family, friends — things money can’t buy — always top the list.
A University of Michigan World Values Study rated the United States number 16 (of 97 nations surveyed) in terms of happiness. Very happy, rather happy, not very happy or not happy at all were the choices offered to people around the world. Scott Vogel of the Washington Post traveled to Denmark to find out why the Danes rated the number one spot. Vogel placed a sign in a Copenhagen park asking the question, “Why are the Danes the world’s happiest people?” One woman, a sausage-seller, said it is because of the Carlsberg beer. A chef said it’s because Danes sit down as a family to eat a meal together every day. Another resident attributed it to the country’s disrespect for authority.
I can buy the beer theory. And the idea about a family meal. As for disrespecting authority, I tried that as a high-schooler and it didn’t bring much bliss. Getting back to Oprah, though, when she chose Eckhart Tolle’s latest offering as a book club selection, I bought it right away. For months, I’ve been reading A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose. Like a college student, I take notes and memorize passages. Tolle says acknowledging the good in our life is the “foundation for abundance.” I have heard others say the same thing: that the first step to abundance is being thankful for what we have. I don’t think they mean richness like bigger houses, cars and wardrobes. The way I understand it is, if we appreciate what we have, we won’t need anything else. A good lesson in these trying times.
Family, friends, faithful readers — what more could I want? Thank you.