There is a large sign near the entrance to Disneyland in California that reads, “Disneyland—the Happiest Place on Earth”. Anyone who has been there would attest that it is hard to be sad or melancholy surrounded by the joy of this make-believe world. However, many people living in the real world where everything doesn’t always go the way they would wish still find life satisfying and happy, and it’s not just because they have had good luck. Someone wrote once “If you have a happy life, it is not because you found it that way; it’s because you made it that way”. So, what makes for a happy life? Perhaps there are three important basic ingredients. First, we need something to hope for. For example, prisoners who survived the brutality of Nazi prison camps during World War II were most often those who found some meaning in their situation. In one camp, a group of doctors organized a society that treated other prisoners, gave lectures to one another and even built an X-ray machine. Hope is not so much something we find as it is something we cultivate. We get it by looking for the possibilities even in the worst circumstances. Second, happiness depends on having something meaningful to do. When there is no longer anything important to do, life is no longer anything. When he was in prison, St. Paul wrote many of his letters responding to the needs and problems of the new Christian communities he had founded. Retired people who thrive are people who stay active, many times by volunteering their time to church and civic organizations. Finally, happiness is having someone to love. To be alone is a dreadful thing. Cultivating relationships takes time, energy, and sacrifice. But as God said from the beginning, “It is not good for the man to be alone.” We will never be happy if we do not have other people with whom to share our lives. If life is not what we want it to be, we might well ask if one of these essentials in missing. If so, we need to actively pursue it.
The happiest place on earth