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Happiness and a Good Life is Built on the Quality of Your Relationships

I was playing a very competitive round of gold at Raintree on Thursday, April 8 and I was delighted in the balmy spring weather, feeling strong, playing well, and just having a jolly good time with Randy, Calvin, and Bee. The trees were in bloom offering beautiful reflections in the lake, the bees spreading pollen and making honey, birds singing their hearts out and we had the course all to ourselves. We were all in good spirits, telling jokes and laughing hysterically. When I made an amazing putt for birdie on hole 12, I felt so happy in that moment, I was tempted to kneel right there on the green to thank the Almighty for blessing me with this wonderful life. What a mighty God we serve and what a mighty life I am able to live right here in Thomaston.

This week, I hired someone to dig up the roots of the vines that are growing on the trees in my yard and explained to the young man that if you destroy the roots in, the vines will wither and die. "Son, you need roots in your family and community to thrive." In Jamaica, when a child is born, the father will take the child's navel string (placenta) and plant a tree over it and wherever they may roam, his or her tree will always anchor them to the place of their birth. So, when my daughter joined us 50 years ago, I asked the doctor for the placenta so I could follow the tradition and he confessed that he had never had that request. I persisted and the tree is still standing.

Whatever your station in life, everyone strives to have health, happiness, and wealth. The news is replete with examples of people who are obsessed with becoming rich and famous. That being said, the secret to lasting happiness and fulfillment are those meaningful bonds with significant others. Those bonds turn out to be the secret sauce for our wellbeing and longevity. Quality relationships with trustworthy, kind and considerate people become the foundation for a truly prosperous life. Those bonds, however, can only be achieved if you are also trustworthy, kind, and considerate.

On the other hand, holding grudges, being selfish, and living with conflict are the requisite ingredients for a short, tortured life. Don't take my word for it. Talk with people who have lived long enough to tell you stories about folk who ended in jail, died young, or whose lives were consumed by drugs and addiction.

This doesn't mean that a positive outlook on life will prevent bad things from happening to you. Everyone suffer setbacks, failures, disappointments and tragedies, but they are magnified if you do not enjoy supportive relationships, The most resilient are those who have family and friends they can rely on. Think on this the next time you decide to blow up bridges in your wake.

I am reminded of the story of the most hateful man in the valley who died after a short, sad, and miserable life, but the pastor insisted that he could not bury the man if someone could not say something kind about him. "Come on people, someone must have witnessed his generosity or any act of kindness. Please come forward and speak up." After a long pause, one of the deacons finally came forward and said: "Pastor, his brother was worse."

Failure and social rejection can be crippling for everyone. Obviously, succeeding at something is a good start. You cannot be happy being dependent on the good will of others, especially your parents. You have to pay your bills. It is a miserable existence if you are forever being tormented by bill collectors and denied credit. You don't have to be rich, but you must be able to meet your financial responsibilities.

In this great land of opportunity, you have to really try to fail, like getting hooked on drugs, committing crimes, being hateful, having babies you cannot support, and a bad reputation. None of us are without sin and have fallen short of expectations and nobody is perfect or without vulnerabilities, but being willing to help out a friend in need so you will have a friend to lean on when it's your turn goes a long way to keep you upright.

I have repeated Dr. Malcom Taylor's words: "If you have God, family and friends, you may stumble but you will never hit the ground." Yes. We need each other. I invite you to lean on me when you are not strong and I promise to be your friend.

Social media has a way of convincing us that everyone else is leading perfect lives while we struggle. Please don't compare yourself to others. Let me introduce you to Richard Cory:

"Whenever Richard Cory went downtown, we people on the pavement looked at him. He was a gentleman from sole to crown, clean favored, and imperially slim. And he was always quietly arrayed, and he was always human when he talked, but still he fluttered pulses when he said: "Good morning," and he glittered when he walked. And he was rich. Yes, richer than a king ---and admirably schooled in every grace. In time, we thought that he was everything to make us wish that we were in his place. So, on we worked, and waited for the light, and went without the meat, and cursed the bread; And Richard Cory, one calm summer night, went home and put a bullet through his head." (American poet Edwin Arlington Robinson, 1897)

Yes, because we all strive for inclusion, belonging, feeling special, and even to be honored and applauded, social exclusion is painful. But as desirable as fame and fortune may be, it's the quality of our relationships that guarantees us a long meaningful life. It is worth the occasional hassle.

According to Mark Twain: "There isn't time, so brief is life, for bickerings, apologies, heart-burnings, callings to account. There is only time for loving, and but an instant, so to speak, for that."

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