Mennonite Health Journal

Articles on the intersection of faith and health








One Short Step to Happiness

President’s Column by Joseph Longacher, MD

from Mennonite Health Journal, Vol. 16, No. 1 – February 2014

Much has been written about happiness and how to achieve it.  Happiness is even mentioned in U. S. Declaration of Independence.  The pursuit of happiness was considered important enough to include as a basic human right, or need, in the formation of the country.  A casual observation of our peers would suggest that many of them give nearly their full time and energy to this pursuit.  “Pursuit” is all they are able to manage; happiness itself is elusive.

During a recent television program I viewed, a psychiatrist gave a simple formula for achieving happiness:  maintain good relationships, exercise regularly, and share with others.  A brief perusal of the Internet reveals many such formulas, sometimes with a score sheet to rank one’s level of happiness.  Years ago, I watched another TV show using such a scale, and the Amish scored the highest of all those tested.

Several weeks ago, I experienced unexpected happiness in my interaction with Mennonite Healthcare Fellowship, which did not involve exercise but otherwise supports the comments of the psychiatrist on television.  I would like to share what happened to me in the hope that others may decide to replicate the experience.

I was in the process of renewing my annual MHF dues.  (I hope you will also do the same; it will bring happiness to those of us working to increase our membership!)  I noticed a box to check in order to provide a gift membership for another person.  I realized that there was someone for whom I could take such action, my sister-in-law, a retired nurse educator and former member of the Mennonite Nurses Association.  So I added the necessary amount to my check.

It then occurred to me that I also know a freshman medical student in Florida, whom I have never met but with whom I have corresponded by email.  So I increased the amount further to cover his dues as well.  And when I wrote my check it was a simple matter to add a modest amount to round up the total to an even number, sending along with it a message to Paul Leichty, our Executive Director, to “use the excess where needed, perhaps for another gift membership.”

Very shortly thereafter Paul received a communication from a healthcare worker in India who was very interested in MHF and its mission and activities.  The timing was just right for Paul to send word that funds were available to cover his membership dues.  Thus, MHF added to our group someone involved in church-related healthcare work in an international setting.  Building such relationships is one of MHF’s priorities.

The unexpected part of this sequence of events was the sense of satisfaction, even pleasure, which I gained by simply responding to a form letter appeal.  I experienced not just the benefits of altruism, but the joy of new or enhanced relationships.  Now if I can just exercise a bit, I will have achieved the trifecta!

I share this story partly because I think it is interesting, but also to encourage others to do the same. As you renew your own dues (or if you have already done so, after the fact), think about persons for whom membership in MHF would connect them with other Anabaptist healthcare workers in new and meaningful ways.  Consider adding $50 to cover the first year of their dues.  Or, if you can, give more, and invite Paul to use those funds as an unexpected resource for others who would enhance our organization by their presence.

I hope to see many of you at Laurelville on June 13-15 for our Annual Gathering, which is shaping up to be very interesting and meaningful.  (See the rest of this issue of Mennonite Health Journal for more details.)  If you can attend, plan to share with me there your stories about gift memberships you may have provided.

About the author

Joe-Longacher-200WJoe Longacher, MD, is a past President of Mennonite Healthcare Fellowship and lives in Harrisonburg, Virginia.  He retired at the end of 2012 from a practice in gastroenterology in Richmond, Virginia and was part of the Implementation Team that gave leadership to the formation of MHF.  Joe has also served at the conference and denominational level and was a past president of Mennonite Medical Association (MMA).   He is married to Constance (Brenneman), originally from Hesston, Kansas, and they have four children and six grandchildren.