LIke a lot of you I subscribe to Netflix and Amazon Prime and my entertainment comes almost exclusively from those sources. Lately I find myself starting something, watching for 10 minutes, and then looking for something else. "Too silly," I say, or "too violent." This pattern led me last night to a documentary called "Happy."
It's a subject I'm interested in, for obvious reasons, and the film confirmed my own long-held belief, that happiness has more to do with loving what you do—and who you do it with—than counting your many possessions. America, sadly, is not high on the happiness index (Denmark usually claims first place), but I was surprised to see Japan at the very bottom. The Japanese apparently work 'til they drop, with little or no time for family or friends.
As humans we do best when we are part of a community, a word that encompasses all sorts of relationships that shift, shrink, grow, change, and sometimes dissolve and reform. It can be as complex as family or as simple and limited as temporary aid in need. I had great examples of this when working with Ray's caregivers, who brought their hearts as well as their hands into our home every day.
It worries me that our country is so polarized, and that the community of citizens I remember from my post-war childhood is no longer working in concert to move America forward. Instead we are pulling and pushing at one another, criticizing, defaming, even dehumanizing the other. I could willingly blame Trump but it's not just him.
The slide into self-centered individualism and warped capitalism has many causes, and it's been building slowly since at least the late 70s. Trump is the exemplar, but we've all lost our way.
It's not true that wealth is the key to happiness. It's not true that people who don't look like us aren't deserving. It's not true that I can make it on my own, with no help from friends or strangers. It's not true that America can't open it's doors to those seeking asylum, or feed the less fortunate, or protect our environment.
What is true? That it's not too late to change. We can encourage compassion, learn empathy, extend a hand, speak the truth. We can practice listening and replying without venom. And we need to do all this, urgently. So put down your phone, turn off the television, and take a long walk away from the mayhem. Hug a neighbor, call a friend, kiss your cat. Small steps, yes, but in the right direction they will change the world.