“Are you happy?”

It’s a simple question amidst a variety of questions Brad asks me. He is a resident of the nonprofit community for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities that I work for. I can usually predict the question he will ask me, depending on the time of day. In my seven months there, he has asked me one particular question only once.

He’ll knock on my door while opening it to have an exchange that can last seconds or minutes. He’ll ask what I had for supper or whether my wife cooked a good supper the day before.  He’ll ask whether I have ever had what he had for supper the night before, and then explains what he had and how he cooked it. He’ll ask if I’m staying out of trouble. I’ve heard the questions scores of times and I never tire of them because they provide opportunities to interact.

Then there was that one time. The one question that threw me. The one question that gave me pause. The one question that provided insights into relationships and into ourselves that it stuck with me.

“Are you happy?”

I replied positively because I was.  Since he asked the question shortly after I returned to work after an eight-day stint in the hospital and a two-week recovery quarantine with COVID, I had more reasons to be happy than usual. But happy is happy, and happy is a choice. (I believe the taproot for the emotion of happiness is the spiritual gift of joy, but I will address that another time in my faith-based blog topics.) How different this question was than his questions about meals or cooking, or queries as to people I know and other questions that can be responded to with information, not emotion.  Emotion connects.

“Are you happy?”  That’s a worthwhile question to ask the person in the mirror and to consider for anyone you meet. Humanity resides not as much in the response but as in empathizing as to why the answer is what it is. No matter, happiness is still a choice.  It can be a difficult choice to make.

Every person we encounter – spouse, family member, friend, etc. – has much going on in their lives, resting on their hearts and wrestling in their minds. As for the question, there is no wrong answer. I believe just considering it for ourselves and those in our lives is an important opportunity to discover and connect, and, at times, to help.

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