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Thanksgiving and Happiness

I just finished a book called Have a Little Faith by Mitch Albom.  Mitch is asked by his rabbi to deliver his eulogy, and the book details his efforts to get more acquainted with the rabbi.  There is a wonderful message about gratitude and happiness that I wanted to share for Thanksgiving.

The rabbi was aging, and spent some time in the hospital.  Pages 97-99 detail an interesting insight into one of these visits.

As we sat in the room, a commercial for an antidepressant drug flashed across the TV screen.  It showed people looking forlorn, alone on a bench or staring out a window.

“I keep feeling something bad is going to happen….,” the TV voice said.

Then, after showing the pill and some graphics, those same people appeared again, looking happier.

The Reb and I watched in silence.  After it ended, he asked, “Do you think those pills work?”

Not like that, I said.

“No,” he agreed.  “Not like that.”


Happiness in a tablet.  This is our world.  Prozac. Paxil. Xanax.  Billions are spent to advertise such drugs.  And billions more are spent purchasing them.  You don’t even need a specific trauma; just “general depression” or “anxiety,” as if sadness were as treatable as the common cold.

I knew depression was real, and in many cases required medical attention.  I also knew we overused the word.  Much of what we call “depression” was really dissatisfaction, a result of setting a bar impossibly high or expecting treasures that we weren’t willing to work for.  I knew people whose unbearable source of misery was their weight, their baldness, their lack of advancement in the workplace, or their inability to find the perfect mate, even if they themselves did not behave like one.  To these people, unhappiness was a condition, an intolerable state of affairs.  If pills could help, pills were taken.

But pills were not going to change the fundamental problem in the construction.  Wanting what you can’t have.

I want to jump to the end of this particular story.  From page 102,

So have we solved the secret of happiness?

“I believe so,” he said.

Are you going to tell me?

“Yes.  Ready?”


“Be satisfied.”

That’s it?

“Be grateful”

That’s it?

“For what you have.  For the love you receive.  And for what God has given you.”

That’s it?

He looked at me in the eye.  Then he sighed deeply.

“That’s it.”

I hope we can remember this lesson as we celebrate Thanksgiving Day.

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