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Commentary

Commentary: Happiness In Troubled Times
By Mitch Traphagen mitch@observernews.net
Jan 6, 2006 - 7:26:00 PM

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I gave my wife a pony for her birthday. Well, it wasn't really a pony - it was an old fishing boat but her response was, "It's almost like getting a pony!" So now, the as of yet unnamed boat is referred to as "Michelle's Pony."

Unfortunately, there's more to the story. It was not just any fishing boat, it was a really cheap fishing boat and I managed to purchase it one day too late. And, more unfortunately, when I finally did purchase it and we excitedly launched her new boat, it sank. It turns out, however, that the sinking was kind of a good thing since that forced the evacuation of several dozen cockroaches. Where cockroaches could even live on a small fishing boat is beyond me but as the water rose, they went swimming for their miserable little lives.

Through the sinking, the cockroaches and my endless apologies for a horrible birthday, the smile never left Michelle's face. While I freaked out, she just took it all in and seemed happy. Maybe I could learn something from her.

It seems that we live in troubled times. We have terrorists, monster hurricanes, gas shortages and more. We have politicians that either lie or tell the truth, depending on your viewpoint. We have domestic spying and a war that is claiming a steady stream of our young people. Apparently, there are people in the world who would like to see us all dead. We have development and the people who like it versus the people who don't like it. No doubt right now people are getting mad about something they feel isn't right in Riverview, Apollo Beach or Sun City Center.

Most of this is big-time stuff and virtually none of it is something to be happy about. As a matter of fact, perhaps it's not possible to even be happy while all of this is going on. We do, after all, have responsibilities.

It doesn't matter if you think that domestic spying is preventing terrorist attacks or violating civil liberties. It doesn't matter if you think the war in Iraq is justified or not. It doesn't matter if you think development is a blessing or a curse. It doesn't even matter if you are pro or con in an argument over stoplights on U.S. 41 or State Road 674. As Americans, we have a duty to our nation to foster and even participate in open debates about these issues. If you support something, support it proudly. If you disagree, try to make some changes or pitch in to make things better. Perhaps somewhere between the two sides there will be a solution and a handshake. To just ignore, however, is to ignore the very thing that makes our nation the greatest on earth. Discourse, discussion, solution all from disparate parties and then moving on to a better day with a new set of issues — it is the American way. It's what sets us apart.

But, all that said, we have a bunch of stuff going on that we need to worry about. In fact, we need to worry about all of it. Nothing seems to be as simple as it used to be. Newspapers and the nightly news are constant reminders that the world is going to hell in a hand basket.

But while we have the responsibility to be involved in the issues pressing our nation, perhaps it's also OK to take a little break from it all. And while we can't forget — particularly those who are sacrificing all for this country — perhaps it's OK to sometimes skip the headlines and focus on the things in your own neighborhood — or even in your own home. The wave from your neighbor, the "how ya doing?" from a stranger — these things are important, too.

Perhaps, for me, anyway, the talk of plastic sheeting and duct tape for survival rooms has resulted in my brain being wrapped with plastic sheeting and duct tape.

It is early in the New Year and it feels kind of odd being happy. Oh sure, tomorrow everything may well fall apart but right now, strangely enough, I'm happy. And maybe, just maybe, I don't need to feel guilty about it. Maybe for just this day, I don't need to worry about what the headlines will be tomorrow.

"I really like my pony," my wife said with a happy grin a few hours later as it sat floating (yes, floating as in not sinking and with no visible evidence of living cockroaches). "I really like having it."

Right now, life is good.



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