Today’s your day, especially if you are near Brooklyn.
It may not be on your calendar, but it’s on the Big One. Today – March 20, 2017, is World Happiness Day. Created by the United Nations, this is the sixth annual presentation of their World Happiness Report. How would one go about researching such a question?
The magic of surveys: ask 1000 people – from 150 countries – one question: on a 1-10 scale. How happy are you?
Okay, now you have some metrics. Researchers then use six measures to try to understand the results: gross domestic product per capita, life expectancy, support from relatives or friends, charitable giving, freedom to make life choices, and perceived levels of government and corporate corruption. Based on those factors – chosen subjectively by the team from the United Nations – we now know which countries to congratulate on this joyful humanistic occasion.
The Top Five for Felicity: #1: Norway. #2: Denmark. #3: Iceland. #4: Switzerland. #5: Finland. (If you’re looking for the United States of America, scroll to #14, tucked between Austria and Ireland). The global frowns go to the last five: #155: Central African Republic. #154: Burundi. #153: Tanzania. #152: Syria. #151: Rwanda. Not much happiness in those tough spots…
So… why so sad, America? From the UN Report: “The central paradox of the modern American economy… is this: income per person has increased roughly three times since 1960, but measured happiness has not risen. The situation has gotten worse in recent years: per capita GDP is still rising, but happiness is now actually falling.”
You’re probably working today (your human resources department failed to include WHD on the closed-for-the-holiday list for 2017), but that doesn’t mean you can’t participate. Go to the website for the The Action for Happiness Pledge: “I will try to create more happiness in the world around me.”
Cheri and I were in New York City this weekend. Whenever I’m here on a Sunday, the question is predictable: “Are you going to go to church?” There are lots of interesting options. Among my solid, mature friends, there’s one option: Redeemer, to hear Tim Keller. Move down the generational scale, and the suggestions become as mixed as five-star restaurant choices. Where to go, for worship?
We stopped for coffee on the way to Penn Station, and then boarded the subway for Brooklyn. Off at Clark Street, we had a brisk stroll through it’s-still-winter-the-day-before-Spring to arrive at 17 Smith Street, facing Fulton. We arrived in time for the first – 9:00a – service at Brooklyn Tabernacle.
I could get Keller’s sermon via podcast, and nearly replicate the experience. The various new-era churches in the city are doing great work… and have similar cousins across big-town America. The spectrum of spiritually meaningful church options in New York City is a great thing, but…
What a delight to be jammed into two seats – on the third row – among thousands of truly happy people. The hundreds in the choir – led by Carol Zymbala – reflect the ethnic mix in the sanctuary. Carol’s husband, Jim, became pastor of the 30 person remnant of the 125-year-old church in 1971. Today, 16,000 members meet at various times, in various venues, to experience God and one another.
Jim’s message was spot on… but you probably wouldn’t finish the podcast. It wouldn’t come close to replicating the live service experience of people – most of whom would be in the lower reaches of the economic bell curve – realizing the promise of God: “But may the righteous be glad and rejoice before God; may they be happy and joyful. Sing to God, sing in praise of his name, extol him who rides on the clouds; rejoice before him – his name is the Lord.” (Psalm 68:3-4)
If happiness is an experience rather than an emoji, you might find it in a church whose music captures the joy found in the God whose smile is too-often hidden by the clouds of disbelief…