Happiness is a warm ‘burg

Happiness is a warm ‘burg

By Jack Henke Special to the News Graphic

Have you heard about Yale University, one of the most prestigious (see also pretentious) universities in this here U.S. of A., offering college credits for a course in happiness? I kid you not, kids.

It’s true. We should not poke fun at the growing mental health problems of college students from around the country. More and more, kids are feeling overwhelmed. However, we should poke fun at Yale University whenever the opportunity presents itself because, well, it’s fun.

Yale Professor Laurie Santos came up with the idea of the course and teaches the class. Formally, it is called Psych 157: Psychology and the Good Life. When the class was announced, a full twenty-five percent of Yale’s total enrollment signed up. For Yale, that is 1,200 students, which makes it the most popular class in the three hundred and sixteen-year history of Yale. That’s right, happiness is the most popular subject ever.

Just so you know that this happiness is serious business, there actually is homework. Of course, for this class, it is called “Happiness Homework.” Assignments include: Do Something Kind, Write Down 5 Things That You Are Grateful For (alas, poor grammar, even at Yale), Meditate for Ten Minutes, Sleep 8 Hours, and the toughest one of all, Cut Back on Social Media. Evidently, Professor Santos is one hardnosed taskmaster. While she’s at it, if Professor Santos could abolish the words “literally” and “like” from the students’ vocabulary, there would literally be like happiness throughout the land.

Professor Santos, who has become somewhat of a celebrity, says that the course does make students hold themselves accountable. If that’s true, not even I can make fun of that.

Of course, all of this happiness was bound to make someone unhappy, and it has. It seems that the popularity of the class has so upset the other professors at Yale that the university will not offer the class again. "It wouldn't be fair to other courses and departments to take all of their students away," Woo-Kyoung Ahn, director of undergraduate studies in psychology at Yale, told the New York Times. "It causes conflict." So the real lesson is that jealousy and pettiness rule. Way to go, Yale.

The Ivy League could take a lesson on happiness from the Cedar League. Here in Cedarburg, we don’t have a celebrity professor, but we do have some Mel-ebrities. Mel has said all along that Mel’s Charities is not about him – it is about the countless, caring volunteers who are the heartbeat of this local organization.

I know I will regret saying this, but Mel is right. A living, breathing local example of this is Ross Rintelman, who is a Board member & Ambassador Mel's Charities of Ozaukee County. Ross Man, as he is popularly known, is a volunteer and true Mel-ebrity. He lives the Mel’s mission of “Great Times for Great Causes.”

Last week, I received a thank you email from Ross. While he wrote many wonderful things in his note, two lines stood out. Ross wrote how much one community can make a difference. He also wrote, “I believe in miracles.” It snapped me out of my self-pitying stupor. I had been having a tough day. It was probably caused by some serious crisis like my pizza wasn’t hot enough or someone took my pump at the gas station. The gall of some people (take that Steve and Tommy) is incredible.

Ross wrote his email and his attitude worked miracles on my attitude. People like Ross don’t just spread goodwill… they spread greatwill. Professor Santos, and the Ivy Leaguers at Yale could take a lesson from the Ross Man, the ‘burg’s own happiness boss.