A few days ago, I caught a snippet of a radio news piece about an effort to legislate happiness in California. Suggesting that policy focus on what is likely to achieve an underlying social good—in this case, happiness—seems like a good idea, one that is both novel and obvious. Happiness, however, may be more of a sprout than a root, more of a branch than a tree.

I have no issue with happiness and love the feeling as much as anybody. I just believe it may be the wrong place to focus if one is interested in setting a societal stage on which individual happiness is likely to dance about.

Anyone who knows me likely knows what’s coming next—I believe pretty much all good things, all deeply satisfying things, including happiness, grow out of some form of connection. I tend to advocate for real-life kinds of connection (though, of course, these are not the only nor the best ways to connect for all people) in a context that tends to privilege the access and efficiency of the kind of connection forged over wires, through satellites, and across screens.

Yesterday afternoon, I stopped by to see Anne. She was sitting on the stoop in front of her open front door, back from a run and chatting with her next-door neighbor who had been heading, on foot, to the grocery store. After giving her a squeeze, I, too, parked it on the curb. Over the next hour, we encountered in conversation and in fact all sorts of people and goings on. The very tall state rep the neighbor mistook for a real estate agent selling the house next door where a lovely older woman has lived for 53 years. The bikes on the curb which still hadn’t been taken so maybe the person giving them away should put a sign on them indicating they are up for grabs. Neighborhood news and what Evacuation Day celebrates. An elderly pair making their way down the street in the hinting-at-spring air. Anne’s son comes out to stand back to back with the neighbor, marking his growth. Eventually, it becomes time for us all to (actually) do our grocery shopping, and we disperse. 

As I collect ingredients for dinner, informed by what I see as I wander about the store, I realize how generously I’ve been fed by the last hour, full to the brim with a sense of neighborhood, relationship, and humanity. This is, for me, super happy-making. So, maybe sometime this week, you pop a squat on your proverbial stoop while you drink your coffee (or your shrubby concoction!), stretch, or simply take a minute to connect with whoever and whatever is right out your front door. I hope (and I might put money on it) it is happy-making for you, too.

xo Jill

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