The Second Happiest State

Happy are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven. Matthew 5:3

Kansas is not at its best right now. Day after day of colorless, dishwater skies, slushy piles of dirty snow, and car eating potholes are taking a toll on our general cheer.  The dog is tracking in mud, and both he and the listless cat are shedding. Our legislature is in session and arguing about out how the state can stay in business. The letters to the editor in the newspaper bristle with hostility and cynicism. Some Kansans, who are out of work, feel betrayed by those whom they thought they could trust.

The stunning, wrenching facts of human limitation and sin in the face of factors beyond our capacity to control or fully understand have left many disheartened and bitter. This is described as “populist discontent” – a response of anger and frustration by those slammed the hardest by the recession.

I vacuum and re-vacuum dog and cat hair. I mop up the mud. The dog mopes after being scolded for chewing up a shoe, his bed, and pulling out the edging from my flower beds. The cat stretches herself out on my computer keyboard or clings to me like lint.

You may be surprised to know that Kansas ranks second in a tie with Nebraska, after number one Hawaii as happiest state in the US.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conducted research on frequent mental distress (FMD) in America. Frequent mental distress was defined as 14 or more bad days out of 30. In the most recent survey (2003-2006) 10.2% of Americans were suffering from frequent mental distress. The saddest state was Kentucky with 14.4%. You can probably guess that Hawaii was the happiest state at 6.6%. But get this: Kansas and Nebraska tied for second happiest states at 7.5%. Clearly those surveys were not conducted in January.  Time Magazine

In periods of FMD the temptation is great to kick the dog, toss out the cat and find someone to blame and pay for my losses and pain. Justice does require accountability. Justice also requires faith. And faith requires belief for no good reason, belief in something unknown, unseen. Faith asks us to trust when it appears that nothing is worthy of our trust.

Such a season of perseverance, of faith and hope withoutpositive leading indicators or pollster confirmation is upon us. For the spiritually inclined it is an invitation for deepening maturity and service to God as vessels of hope and light in a time of darkness and confusion. It is a time to dig down for the promised Kingdom of Heaven promised to the poor in spirit.

Here in the second happiest state, I can’t get Haiti off my mind and really do not want to – the orphans, the ocean of grief, the suffering, the sudden swift severing of meaning, purpose, and security.

I listen to a woman singing, “Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia. Amen”

I hear about a concert violinist keeping himself alive in his buried tomb of rubble by replaying in his mind every piece he had ever performed.

I see a world rushing to give their best to Haiti’s worst.

The big eyed child asks, “Mister, have you seen my mama, my papa?

Here in Kansas, the second happiest state, I have no problems even in a recession.

But somehow I think I would be happier in Haiti.

may Haiti bring an earthquake in my soul – a leveling of all that is unnecessary
and a re-formation of the infrastructure of my being

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2 responses to “The Second Happiest State

  1. your blog is part of my morning centering time. the faces of haiti haunt me as well. the joy of rising from the rubble has made me believe in God all over again. thank you for your surpise ending. caught me off balance (that is good). Lord give me the humility to cry out for help and be surrounded by what has crumbled in my world. amazing that the place of ruin and apparent hopelessness is the place where God is. certainly he has placed haiti in our hearts or at least on our radar. my dad use to go to haiti every year. i grew up praying for haiti. is this Gods answer?
    thank you for the very thoughtful words, on another grey day in kansas.

  2. Thank you for this today, Loretta.

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