The Special Ways Religious Communities Promote Happiness

hands praising

Yesterday was my granddaughter's seventh birthday party. It was an outdoor party and one of the boys found a worm in the ground. The girls were afraid of it and the boys picked it up and played with it. After a while, the girls overcame their fears and also played with it. One boy placed it around his neck and wore it as ornate jewelry. In so doing, he promoted the lowly earthworm to a place of prominence. Soon they took branches and leaves and made a home for it. I joined in with the kids and eventually returned the worm to its natural environment under a bush. In the children's play, I observed a spontaneous spiritual community at its best. So let's take a closer look at the community these children created. How did their interactions with the worm show them how to be happy?

  • Sense of Community: Anthropologists say that people are social beings. The children were modeling community as they were celebrating. Belonging is one of my deepest core needs I meet through participation in a community. Religious communities that create a sense of belonging promote wellbeing within that community.
  • Being Able To Contribute: One of the greatest joys in life is contributing something unique to the world that makes a difference. Each child was spontaneously making unique contributions to the party. When the worm appeared, one child helped others overcome their fears of it. Another elevated the worm to a place of prominence, and yet another built a home for the worm. Each child made unique contributions effortlessly and spontaneously. Religious communities that equip and provide opportunities for participants to exercise their unique gifts promote a sense of meaning and purpose to each person within that community.
  • Appreciation for Life: Belonging to a community and making unique contributions stimulates a deeper appreciation for life itself. This unique appreciation is characterized by a sense of completeness. It was amazing to see the way the children valued the worm.

The amount that these three factors are present in someone's life is the extent that happiness is present. These are spiritual experiences. Religious communities that provide the structure for these to occur are communities that promote happiness.