Happiness is about choice, response and love

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, July 24, 2002

Widespread drought here in the Canadian West has imperiled many who depend on the land for a living. Meanwhile, those who have placed their retirement hopes in North American stock markets are likewise seeing their expectations dry up.

With the outlook so gloomy, how can this column continue to focus on happiness?

I think the answer can be found in some of the letters I've received from you.

Take this letter, for example, from a former Cochrane vice-principal and a regular at our coffee table:

IN MY MUSING about happiness, and through the challenges I've met with over time, I have realized that happiness is truly a choice. While the external often enhances a feeling of happiness or contentment, subtly provides a glimpse of it, or perhaps coaxes it to become part of one's being, happiness must still largely come from within.

I feel blessed to have arrived at a point where I can honestly say that I am happy (as a general state of contentment). Of course, I have moments of sadness, disappointment, anger, frustration, or other like feelings. Nevertheless, these emotions all pass -- the sigh of happiness remains with a knowing smile.

—Gina Filipetto, Calgary

IF TRUE HAPPINESS is a choice, as Gina emphasizes, then how we respond to life's happenings lies at the heart of that choice, according to life skills coach and rancher Patti Kerfoot:

A NOTE TO SAY how much I'm enjoying your columns on happiness, and especially the one with the story of the hummingbird. It made me think of something I came across in my reading some years ago and that I try to live by: The word "happiness" has in it the word "happen" – happiness is about what happens; more specifically, how we respond (as opposed to react) to what happens. It's not what actually happens that determines our happiness, but rather our response to what happens. Challenging sometimes, no?

—Patti Kerfoot, Cochrane

I'M BEGINNING to think Gina and Patti are in collusion with the writer of the next letter, a Toronto choral director and frequent respondent to this column:

IT WAS THE SUMMER of 1987, and I was living in Minneapolis, falling in love with someone and opening out into a new life, when everything fell apart. The person I loved fell out of love with me. I had to find a series of places to live, after a night in the old Ranchero. I tried to help a refugee from Central America get to Canada, and the car ran out of gas, shortly before one of the persons where I was living that week said that she didn't feel safe having me invite an unknown refugee into the home. It was that kind of terrible summer.

I was working downtown for a law office as a temp when the last straw broke my back: somebody stole my not even very valuable 3-speed used bike. I was pretty dejected as I walked back toward hippie central (the West Bank of the Mississippi, where all the new parts of the University had crowded out most of the cheap housing).

I was just past the new Metrodome stadium, gazing dejectedly downward to the ground, when I saw the graffito that saved me, both then and innumerable times since:

"Try Plan B."

Oh, so there is one!

—Alan Gasser, Toronto

JAN STEFANIC knows about this kind of choice. When I first met her some years ago, she was a young widow trying to raise two small children. Since then, she has contended with financial and health issues and numerous deaths in her family.

Here is what she says about the choice she makes each day:

HAPPINESS IS being filled with God's Holy Spirit, and knowing no matter what comes against us, God is still in control. It is waking each day to a brand new opportunity to share His love!

— Jan Stefanic, Edmonton

THANK YOU, coffee companions, for your words of wisdom.

© 2002 Warren Harbeck

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