“....The grand essentials to happiness in this life are something to do, something to love, and something to hope for. We all must have something to love.”
-American clergyman George Washington Burnap and repeated/attributed to Immanuel Kant, a philosopher of the 1700’s.I remember these words being part of the first unit of the middle school health book I taught out of in the 90’s. Assuming its truth, one can quickly conclude of the importance of meaningful activities, meaningful relationships and a hopeful look to the future to experience strong holistic health. Certainly good physical health is an essential part of holistic health. But one may conclude that many present health issues stem from meaningless activities, lack of personal relationships and not seeing meaning in life. When one considers the issue of trauma in the classroom, increased depression and anxiety for all ages and more expressions of despair (note increased suicide rates) and the impact these have in our community (stresses upon schools, hospitals, social ministries), one has to do more than fix the results. A deeper solution needs to be considered.While it is debatable if Burnap’s/Kant’s statement is wholly true, observations can certainly point that the antithesis of their statement is contributing to our society's sobering downward spiral. Consider the following-
Meaningless activities- Time in front of a handheld device, a computer or a television (for gaming, movies, and other binge-watching) has overtaken opportunities for free play, reading and hobbies. Recent research has warned of the negative outcomes of hours of screen time- obesity, skewed realities and short attention spans. Other meaningless activities create an incessant need for accolades, rather than supporting intrinsic satisfaction. Participation awards are just one of many ways in which society has poisoned the growth of generations into a lack of grit and determination.Lack of meaningful relationships- Screen time has also impaired or replaced familial relationships (e.g. phones out at supper), conversation in a school hallway and in public discourse. Add to this the “busyness” of families and individuals, and it’s small wonder that so many folks, young and old, are knowingly and unknowingly longing for a relationship that is more than superficial and not limited to Twitter-like conversations. It’s no wonder that even worship has largely moved toward a need for emotional experiences rather than simply experiencing God’s gifts through His Word and sacramental gifts.Nothing to hope for- Social media and daily news inform us the earth is dying and is an increasingly dangerous place to live. The earth is burning up, the oceans are taking over our coasts and Mother Earth is experiencing traumatic pain. In real time, we see catastrophes and tragedies from around the world as though they are all in our neighborhood. The result is lamenting of what other horrible events may come our way.Where do we turn? Expend millions of dollars on treatments during an opioid epidemic? Direct opportunities and resources for more self-help programming? Encourage volunteerism and community activism to find purpose in life?Let’s recognize and value Lutheran Schools as a major key to any healthy community, certainly any healthy home. While one may consider Burnap’s and Kant’s thesis as a simplistic look at life, it’s not much of a task to take their ideas and find healthy expression in the lessons taught in Lutheran schools and accept them as strong components of a vibrant life- dare I say, “Life to the fullest?” How are these issues addressed?