Day 21 – The Flavors of Happiness

Sean’s Journal: Today is Sunday. Yesterday afternoon, I left Charlottesville and got myself onto the Blue Ridge Parkway headed south. I found an awesome campground in the George Washington National Forest. Soon, I’ll be heading across the Appalachians via I-64 along what looks to be an especially scenic route. 

Cool Couples / Campfire Chat. I set up camp last night next to two young couples. They had an awesome fire going. As the fire died down, they invited me to come on over and roast or grill with them. They looked to be in their mid-to-late 20’s. We had quite a chat about their adventures and their idea of what happiness means in America. One thing that was quickly clear to us all is that the diversity of our nation’s population means that the answer is not a simple one. We recalled how in the early days of settling America, most folks would be motivated by faith and happy with The Basic 12: access to water, a store of food in their cupboards and root cellar, a supply of candles, a cow to milk, a few chickens, some fruit trees, a large pile of firewood, some good quilts, a strong horse to pull the plow, someone to love, lively kids willing to help with all the chores, and good books to read together. Life was simpler then or so it seems.    

Modern Times. As last night’s campfire conversation continued, we concluded these things about modern Americans…. Some aren’t happy with less than a million-dollar net worth. Others want some fame: to sing on stage, write a best-selling book, or win a marathon. Some are happiest at “happy hour” just hanging out with friends and drinking beer. Some find deep happiness in their religious faith. A good many “give back” or “pay it forward” and derive their greatest satisfaction from serving others. Some need power—personal power to make things happen or political power to have their way. The list goes on. And, some folks want it all. Life is more complicated. So, what’s the message: Discover what makes you happy and be the best version of who you are. Don’t judge others for their choices as we mutually strive to do no harm and to demonstrate respect for each other. 

Do Your Dream. My campfire companions thought my journey was cool and they could see why I loved my life in Juniper, Utah, near the Manti-La Sal Mountains. One of the couples is very entrepreneurial. They went on about how energized they are to see a business enterprise succeed in order to create wealth and jobs for others. The other couple is into the arts. The one fellow is only in his groove when playing the banjo with his amateur bluegrass band. His partner manages a florist shop and is way into flowers and protecting the environment. People are interesting. Our big conclusion about happiness in America is that our national culture and system of free-enterprise really do allow us each to pursue whatever dream we may have. We are blessed.

My Walk in the Woods. As there was no church meetinghouse readily available, I decided to go for a slow, peaceful walk in the glorious Appalachian woods and have a Sunday conversation with God. The woods are wonderful. The little critters that jump, run, or scurry up trees are fun to watch. This was an opportunity for me to reflect on the road ahead—the road across America and the road to my future. I told God that I would always strive to be a good guy—law-abiding, trustworthy, and kind to others. I let him know what my dreams include–to: (1) find a loving companion, (2) get more education that is appropriate for me, (3) get a job that lets me look forward to going to work each day, (4) have meaningful opportunities to serve others, and (5) regularly enjoy the natural wonders of the world. I found a small grove of trees, looked upward, and thanked God for listening. 

On My Way. The drive on I-64 across the Appalachians was spectacular. The day turned out to be a serene day of driving through the mountains of western Virginia followed by a drive through the woodland hill country and towns of West Virginia. As the day progressed, I became I-64 focused and Kentucky bound. I only stopped for gas and goodies. I enjoyed the soft rumble of my Ford V-8 and the peacefulness of the beautiful scenery that was so appropriate for a Sunday drive.

Vince’s Response: I loved the outcomes of that “couples chat” and your walk in the woods. That’s exactly what I would have done in your situation on a Sunday morning. Sean, I know God loves you, me, and all of His children. And, I am sure He is pleased with your good deeds. Keep it up. About the “good ole days” versus modern times… I do think our ancestors led simpler lives, but not easier. They had to work from dawn to dusk to be sure the fields were plowed, the cow was milked, the butter was churned, and that there was ample firewood to keep the family warm all night long. I do think that having your kids busy working in the garden and then anxious to read books together was a healthier lifestyle than gulping down microwaved pizza bites and playing video games. In modern times, we have plenty of work to do and many technological tools to make our work easier. There is one catch. I heard one wise leader make this observation: “These days, many folks look down (at the apps on a palm-held device) for answers to life’s challenges rather than to regularly look upward for guidance.” Let’s remember our American roots of faith, family, hard work, patriotism, and service.     

Bookends: (1) There are many flavors of happiness. (2) America is a “do your dream” place. (3) God does listen when we give Him the opportunity. (4) Let’s remember our roots as we use our “apps” to invent the future.