Happiness. An elusive state for many. A difficult concept to define. So many variables.
If you ask the googles about happiness, you get “Happiness is a mental or emotional state of well-being defined by positive or pleasant emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy. A variety of biological, psychological, religious and philosophical approaches have striven to define happiness and identify its sources.”
A bit vague, but there you have it, according to the googles. (Really, googles? “have striven” is terrible grammar.)
Recently (March 20th, to be exact) the world celebrated International Day of Happiness, created by the United Nations General Assembly a few years ago, to recognize the pursuit of happiness as a human right.
In advance of the UN World Happiness Day, some folks published The World Happiness Report Update, which as you might guess, ranks countries by happiness.
I’ll leave it to you to guess (or look up) the happiest country, but my purpose in mentioning the report has to do with the country ranked at the very other end of the scale: the least happiest.
If you haven’t guessed it by now, that ignominious honor goes to the country I currently call home: Burundi. As if we don’t have enough problems, what with political upheaval, tenuous security, continued violence, economic collapse, hunger, (I could go on and on), now they’re slapping us with saddest?? That feels like kicking a man when he’s down.
But here comes NPR to the rescue: publishing an article about what makes people smile in the saddest country in the world.
And it’s true: it’s a testimony to their strength, their resiliency, and their family ties. Despite all the factors working against them, they still find reasons to smile, to hug, to love.
A bit closer to home, I, too, have reason to smile, to hug, to love. To be the happiest! In spite of this blog post where I mourned Randy’s exile from Burundi once again, and made the comment “This time we know he won’t be back”, HE’S BACK!! Two weeks ago, the state department, in all it’s wisdom, made the decision to lift US Embassy Bujumbura’s Ordered Departure status and allow “employed, adult family members” to return. Other than two employees who have been working from Kigali and were allowed to return, the new status affected exactly one person: Randy McQueen, as he was the one and only employed, adult family member able to return. My non-embassy friends are calling it The Randy Rule. Speaking of happiness, I’m as happy as can be to be reunited.
I can’t tell you how good it is to have him back home. Here we are celebrating a Seder meal on Maundy Thursday with our good friends, whose company we treasure as the days in Bujumbura draw to a close.
When Randy returned in November, he was only here three weeks before the city was shut down for a day of unprecedented violence, and non-emergency employees and family members were ordered out once again. For Burundi’s sake, we hope that doesn’t happen this time. For our sakes, we at least hope it doesn’t happen until we leave in just seven short, busy weeks.
But for now, to heck with what naysayers report about Burundi. Today we are happy! Happy to be together, happy to be home–for now, and happy to celebrate Easter together.
He is risen! He is risen indeed!