Happiness is a picnic in the park with family

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, July 3, 2002

IN LAST WEEK'S column on happiness, Mike Veloski shared with us the image of a hummingbird gleefully sliding down a banana-leaf "water slide" during a tropical downpour.

Coffee companion Julie Kohler of Calgary, responding to the infectious quality of such happiness, wrote: "The image of the hummingbird sliding down the leaf leaves me smiling!" And Debbie Faulkner, also of Calgary, added: The story "makes me want to rig up a mini waterslide on my balcony to attract hummingbirds; forget the feeders."

From the West Coast came this note from an obviously homesick former Cochrane resident:

RE THE HUMMINGBIRD: I used to watch a flock of ducks that lived on the pond on the north side of Griffin Rd. in Cochrane near where it meets Highway 22. They would fly over to the river and ride it down to just level with where I lived on Riverview Dr. Then they would take off up to the Highway 22 bridge and do it all again. This would go on for about 6-8 trips!

—Derek Dunwoody, Victoria

ON THE HUMAN side of happiness, I received this e-mail from cross-cultural communicator Jack Popjes:

YOUR LATEST COLUMN on happiness strikes a note. The Ramkokamekra-Canela people of Brazil, among whom my family and I were privileged to live for 22 years, have a word for happiness, amjikin, which means, literally "to like oneself." Thus, wa amjikin means "I like myself," or "I am happy." This points to the human need for having a healthy self-esteem, a concept so popular in psychological therapy.

Yet, although I do not suffer from problems with low self-esteem, and basically "like myself," as the Canelas would say, I feel the happiest when I am standing at the foot of a great rugged mountain, or when I am floating in a canoe on a still lake at sunrise, or when I watch massive breakers rolling in on a wild stormy seashore, or when watching the stars in a clear dry season night sky 500 miles from the nearest electric light.

It is then that I am truly happy, probably because my self-esteem is utterly overwhelmed with the wonder of the handiwork of my Maker. I doubt I am alone in feeling this way.

—Jack Popjes, the Caribbean

SOME YEARS AGO, Bev Pamenter and his wife Diane lived in Mexico where they had a chance to observe the spontaneity of happiness among the poor. Bev wrote:

DIANE AND I enjoyed our Sunday afternoon walks through Chapultapec Park in central Mexico City. It was just a happy place to be. The wonderful vegetation, the castle on the hill, the swans on the lake, and the warm sunshine, were, of course, part of the grand experience.

But the happiness that especially caught our attention welled up from the families of ordinary people who flooded that park – families living in poverty who simply enjoyed being together.

So many times we watched a large family, fresh from church and led by the children, encircle for themselves some private fun space for the day by stretching a string of balloons from tree to tree.

In no time at all, the younger ones were playing tag or kicking old soccer balls around, while the older ones walked about, sat chatting on the grass, prepared food and refreshments, played a game or two of chess, or cheered on the kids.

And when nighttime approached, they reluctantly took down their balloons and headed home, still happy.

What I believe we saw in the midst of their poverty was a deep inner joy that, in spite of life's difficult circumstances, expressed itself visibly in the happiness of knowing that they loved and were loved within their little world.

—Bev Pamenter, Cochrane

MANY OF THE happiest people I personally know locally are members of Rotary. Rotary's motto for the coming year is "Sow the Seeds of Love." One way I believe all of us can do just that is by sowing the seeds of happiness.

© 2002 Warren Harbeck

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