Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Second Happiest People

photo by Jed Wells

Today I read that Utah slipped to second place as the nation's Happiest State. We lost our reigning title to Hawaii. Now if it were me Mr. Gallup, I wouldn't even include Hawaii because first of all, it is Hawaii, and second of all they don't even have to share our land mass. Plus, three isn't Hawaii just another name for Paradise? Who isn't going to be happy in Paradise? Otherwise am I working so hard at being righteous?

So I've been thinking all day about this position, Utah being such a happy place. And I know there are baskets full of nay-sayers proclaiming it is high-spirited only because we are all on chemical serotonin. But I have some ideas on why I am a happy Utahan (currently not taking medication--though if I were I'd not discount my opinion), and I'd like to profess them right now.

In my spot, where my family currently resides, in Provo--the heart of a county nicknamed Happy Valley--I have much to be pleased about.

I live among people who champion families. Our local law-makers believe the family is the central unit of society, and most businesses are family-oriented. We reserve family time as essential and respectfully allow families their needed space away from outside demands.

My neighbors practice self-sufficiency, gardening and emergency preparedness. There is even a neighborhood captain assigned to our street in case the Wasatch Fault decides to give into pressure and we are without basic essentials. Or worse, any essentials.

I wear aprons around town, and so do other women. Like my mom, for example.

The principal of our local elementary is my best friend's mother, who sent her children to the same school twenty-plus years ago. The school song is still the same, and it ends with "It's the best school in the land!" And in my heart, I really believe it.

If I forget to push my garbage can to the curb once a week on my given garbage day (which seems to be a constant in my life--is there an app for that?) for ten bucks the city will send the garbage truck back to my house for a second chance. Plus, my son gets to watch out the window (LOOK MOM! GARBAGE TRUCK!) for free.

There are certain areas of my town where not even Coke can be purchased.

In my neighborhood there is variety. We have friends from Ghana, Hong Kong, Korea and Denmark to name a few. Nearly all my neighbors have spent time living abroad--outside the USA or beyond our state's borders. Many of us speak two languages. For example, I speak French, my husband speaks Japanese, our friend Kirk speaks Italian and Katie up the street is fluent in Spanish. (She even has a decent accent.) Justin down the street speaks Korean, Ellen up the street speaks Danish and across the street you can send your children to school where they can be immersed in Chinese starting with first grade.

We are within moments of parks, museums and a creamery with in-house ice cream on tap. Behind us, a glorious mountain range. In front of us the city and out further, a lake with a water skiing course.

Everyone exercises. Almost everyone. But pretty much everyone. It seems like.

I know men who have studied Christianity all of their lives and who hold doctorate degrees in doctrine. I know women who have successfully raised large--and small--families. I know artists, musicians, engineers, lawyers, doctors, educators and actors. They are all my neighbors.

I can post a photo like the one above which alludes to me cooking, but I can also admit we eat out at locally-owned restaurants and feel simply fine about it. Because we have good food here. And it keeps getting better. And better.

We are old fashioned traditionalists. We are progressive thinkers. We believe general enlightenment is what makes a soul happy. We are seekers.

Obviously I could go on, and I also don't want to misrepresent. I know we've got our aches and pains. As a daughter of Provo who wanted nothing more than to get the heck out of here as soon as I could, I understand those who leave our town broken-hearted and anxious. This place isn't for everyone.

But neither is Hawaii.