Majestic Lake Tekapo in New Zealand with lupins blooming
My parents told me more than once, “It’s better to give than to receive.” Of course, as a child, this idea doesn’t make as much sense. After all, children depend on others giving them love and basic needs and usually don’t have anything other than love to give back. Over the years, however, I’ve learned that the wisdom my parents passed on to me from their ancestors was spot on.
It is better to give than receive. But it’s challenging to provide any more than what you have in your possession.
Ten years ago this month, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution that set aside March 20 to be observed annually as “International Day of Happiness.” I quickly recalled a line from a Bobby McFerrin song that declared, “Don’t worry, be happy!”
So what does it mean to be happy? Google this expression, and you will find that happiness includes feelings of joy, satisfaction, contentment, and fulfillment. Likely, we don’t need anyone else to tell us when we’re happy since we’re the first to know it. However, sometimes we need to be reminded that we have every reason to be happy when we’re not. Although these reminders don’t always help.
The World Happiness Report 2023 was published this year to coincide with the world’s annual observation of happiness. This report researches happiness and ranks countries by assessing and assigning a national happiness score. Of course, countries like Afghanistan and Lebanon, which scored at the bottom, may not be happy about the published results. But, on the other hand, they must know they’re not happy.
Finland was ranked the happiest country, followed closely by Denmark, Switzerland, and Iceland. The United States made the top 20, coming in at number 16. One position behind Canada and just ahead of the United Kingdom. So we must all be pretty happy, all things considered.
When I think about happiness, the word that comes to the top for me is satisfaction. Unlike the Rolling Stones’ lyrics that “can’t get no satisfaction,” when the dust settles, don’t we all just want to find satisfaction? But how?
We’ve used this word a lot at Asbury over the past ten years. Finding satisfaction is the ultimate outcome found in our mission statement, which reads:
Our goal is a revitalized community where every resident can use their talents and passions for the common good, where children grow into citizens who contribute to building and maintaining a vibrant neighborhood, and all residents are able to enjoy safety, good health, a culture that fosters life-long learning and satisfying lives.
We pursue our mission using an approach based on three assumptions about human nature. The first is that every person has something to contribute. Some capability, that when animated, a passion rises up from within them that motivates them to utilize their gift.
Our second assumption is that happiness, in other words, satisfaction comes when we share our capabilities. The opposite, keeping the fruit of our abilities for ourselves, leads to a lack of satisfaction and addiction. This happens because, convinced that a little more will satisfy us, we engage in a vicious circle of more but never find satisfaction.
Our third assumption is critical and surprisingly controversial for some. Our satisfaction rises when we sincerely invite and welcome others into our community. Each person who joins our community brings capability that they can share. The result is a rising level of satisfaction for everyone.
The happiness report validated our assumptions. Let me explain.
One of the surprises from the happiness report was a substantial increase in neighbors helping neighbors. The technical term used in the report is “altruistic.” Chapter four of the report defines it this way: “A person is altruistic when they help another person without expecting anything in return.” According to the report, altruistic behaviors include helping strangers, donating money, giving blood, and volunteering. And the report found a definite connection between happiness and the willingness of people to help others.
When lead was discovered in water coming into Flint’s homes, the pursuit of happiness was put on hold. Our attention and energies turned to survival. Without safe water, a city cannot survive, much less flourish. Access to safe water is a starting point for every human endeavor.
The Lord has healed these waters. They shall no longer cause death … And sure enough! The water was purified.
2 Kings 2:21-22
Last week, our theme scripture turned our attention to the town of Jericho. The community leaders sought out help from the prophet Elisha for help. Their residents suffered from unsafe water.
Modern-day Jericho is located on the West Bank. The city came under Palestinian control after the Oslo Peace Accords. Jericho is one of the earliest continuous settlements in the world, dating perhaps from about 9000 BCE.
Centuries after the first settlers dug a well, built homes, and created communities, a group of Hebrew slaves camped on the outskirts of the massive wall that encircled Jericho. Led by Joshua, successor to Moses, whom God sent to lead slaves to freedom, God broke down the walls so they could enter the city.
After a few more centuries pass, Jesus walks through Jericho encircled by a crowd who chose to travel with him. The news of His anticipated arrival was heard by a man named Zacchaeus. A person despised by his community for his willingness to exploit his neighbors in cooperation with Roman officials. At that time, Palestine was occupied by Roman forces, and the residents of Jericho were heavily taxed.
Zacchaeus didn’t want to miss seeing Jesus come by, so he chose a tree close to the road going through the center of town. From his vantage point, he could clearly see Jesus among the crowd. However, Zacchaeus likely didn’t anticipate that Jesus could also see him.
Instead of criticizing Zacchaeus or embarrassing him in front of the people he cheated, Jesus asks to eat supper at his home. Although missing from the story as it is written, we can be sure that when Jesus arrived, He was given water to wash with and drink. Perhaps water from the same well that Elisha symbolically poured salt in to restore it to health centuries earlier.
Many wells have provided water for generations. Residents come and go, many prosper while others don’t, but wells serve their purpose through it all. Giving access to water from below the ground’s surface, where it accumulates after passing through numerous layers of filtration.
Scripture is filled with symbols packed with meaning and opportunities for connecting with God and finding satisfaction in life. Water clearly stands out as synonymous with life itself. So is salt, which Jesus uses to describe all who follow Him and share the good news through what we do for each other.
God wants you and me to be satisfied with life. After all, God created us and everything that we need and desire. And God is clearly pleased with all that He has done.
You can join us each Sunday in person or online by clicking the button on our website’s homepage – Click here to watch. This button takes you to our YouTube channel. You can find more information about us on our website at FlintAsbury.org.
A reminder that we publish this newsletter that we call the Circuit Rider each week. You can request this publication by email. Send a request to connect@FlintAsbury.org or let us know when you send a message through our website. We post an archive of past editions on our website under the tab, Connect – choose Newsletters.
Our series was inspired by and relies on content provided by CleanWaterfortheWorld.org.
Content for this series is also based in part on:
Eric Nilsen. Understanding Social Justice. © Eric Nilsen, 2022. Independently published.
“World Happiness Report 2023.” © Sustainable Development Solutions Network, 2023. Retrieved from: link.