Friday’s Column: Brent’s Bent
Physician and sociologist Nickolas Christakis tracked 5,000 people over 20 years and discovered what most of us likely suspected, that surrounding ourselves with cheery people makes us happier. Happiness is contagious.1 And though this should cause us to carefully choose our associates (1 Corinthians 15.33), it should likewise motivate us to be that one spreading the joy.
Solomon wrote, “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones” (Proverbs 17.22 NASB1995). I have often received this medicine, including my most recent visit to interventional radiology to have a surgical drain placed in an abscess. One of the nurses in the radiology department is named Andre, and I have had the pleasure of receiving his care on multiple occasions.
Last November, when hospitalized for the same purpose of draining abscesses, Andre was the one who came to fetch me and carry me to radiology. You could hear Andre singing before he arrived. He helped me into a wheelchair, and we took things routinely until we reached a long, empty corridor. Then, suddenly, Andre started making the noises of a race car, and we went flying through the halls. As we turned corners, Andre would screech as if he had to brake hard to keep us from crashing.
Andre had to fetch my father from the waiting room during my latest visit. Upon arriving at the waiting room, he asked those seated if they’d rather hear him imitate Bing Crosby or Elvis Presley. Their choice must have been Elvis Presley because he played Elvis on his smartphone and danced as he brought dad to my bedside. Then, he pointed at my hot-blooded sideburns, which he mistook for pork chops, and said, “See, Elvis.”
It is hard to feel anxious or afraid about your procedure when such a friendly fellow has you grinning from ear to ear. It is also hard not to like Andre. It reminds me of what interpersonal relationships, even with strangers, could be if we sought what edified others rather than divisiveness (Romans 14.19).
Had we wanted, we could have focused on our differences. For example, Andre has more melanin in his skin while I have less. Perhaps that has led to Andre developing a different worldview. I acknowledge that this may have caused Andre to experience things I have not, wholly negative things. But Andre did not act as if that were a factor in our interactions. Things like politics or socioeconomic differences were not a consideration. Instead, Andre and I interacted as two people made in God’s image. He treated me in a manner consistent with how he desired me to treat him (Matthew 7.12).
Paul tells us to look out for the interests of others (Philippians 2.4). We likely take this to mean that we should focus more on meeting physical needs like hunger or spiritual needs through evangelism. However, I suggest that sometimes the best way to look after another’s interest is to smile at them and share your joy (Galatians 5.22). I admit that we cannot all be extroverts to the degree of Andre, but we can still spread the joy we feel to others.
1 Arley, Dan. “Beware: Happiness Is Contagious.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 11 June 2009, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/predictably-irrational/200906/beware-happiness-is-contagious.