A guilty pleasure that I enjoy is watching documentaries on historical subjects that pique my interest. A documentarian that I have seen multiple works from is Ken Burns, who first caught my interest with his account of the history of the game of baseball more than 25 years ago. Burns has produced documentaries on the Civil War, World War II, the Vietnam War, the West, and biographical histories of the likes of Mark Twain, Lewis and Clark and Thomas Jefferson.
His most recent work that knocks it out of the proverbial ballpark focuses on the history of Country music, of its uniquely American roots and appeal that has spanned more than a century. As I watched the series it documented many of the genre’s most influential and impactful artists, producers and moments.
During one episode, the series touches briefly on singer/songwriter Roger Miller. Miller is known for his songs that include “King of the Road,” and comical tunes that include “Dang Me,” and “Chug a Lug.” One particular song that he sang that I recently pondered upon is entitled “You Can’t Roller Skate in a Buffalo Herd.”
Among the song’s lyrics are the lines “Ya can’t roller skate in a buffalo herd,” “Ya can’t take a shower in a parakeet cage,” “Ya can’t drive around with a tiger in your car,” “Ya can’t go fishing in a watermelon patch,” and “All you gotta do is put your mind to it; knuckle down, buckle down, and do it do it do it.”
The particular line about being “happy if you’ve a mind to” has been on my mind. That’s because I’m sure I could offer a dozen “good” reasons why I shouldn’t be happy, or at least why I should be just a little irritable. In the overall big picture of things, they’re small reasons, but when does that stop most of us?
Abraham Lincoln said that people are as happy as they make up their minds to be. That’s what Roger Miller was singing about. Happiness is a choice.
The Bible doesn’t use the word happiness per se, but it does refer to joy — and it tells us that joy is a choice, too. James reminds us to ”count it all joy when you fall into various trials,” (James 1:2). He’s talking about making a choice. That’s all it is. You decide in difficult situations that you will respond with a joyful attitude, regardless of how the situation makes you want to feel.
So, this week, when your roof starts leaking and your car stops running and your computer crashes and one of your board members shows you for the hundredth time that he just doesn’t get it — remember that you can be joyful if you’ve a mind to.