In 1988, Bobby McFerrin wrote a song so clear and simple that it almost immediately became a huge hit. The lyrics went like this:
“Here’s a little song I wrote. You might want to sing it note for note. Don’t worry, be happy. In every life we have some trouble, but when you worry you make it double. Don’t worry, be happy.”
I wish I could live that song. Sometimes I do. I let go of the worries of life, but not often enough. Sometimes I worry—a lot.
I could argue that I have a lot to worry about. I am blessed with two beautiful daughters, a life partner who inexplicably loves me just as I am, a job that I love (most of the time) that mostly doesn’t feel like a job, but enables me to pay my bills, have a nice home and a decent car—I could go on.
I ought to think of myself as most blessed, but sometimes I worry—a lot. I worry about college bills for those two beautiful daughters, and about being the best possible life partner to my wife, and giving my church what it needs through my work, and paying my bills, and taking care of my house and my car—I could go on.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gives the inspiration for Bobby McFerrin’s song. “Therefore I tell you,” Jesus says, “do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?”
If Jesus is right that God values and cares for all us humans (and I believe Jesus is right), then what is the antidote to worry? It is not as simple as a silly song that tells us “don’t worry, be happy.”
The antidote to worry is community.
To not worry and be happy simply means rolling up our sleeves and doing what is right for our neighbors, every neighbor, loving our elderly neighbor, our autistic neighbor, our neighbor fighting cancer, our neighbor who supports the other political party, our transgender neighbor, our neighbor who doesn’t look like us—every neighbor. When we unconditionally care for one another, then there is community. When there is community, there is no need to worry.
I have a friend who often reminds me that every person is a magnificent creation of the divine. Even the person most different from me, even the one who doesn’t believe the things I believe, is a neighbor who needs, who deserves my love and respect. That is community. If I can really live in community, then I don’t have anything to worry about. So let’s all sing together…
Here’s a little song I wrote. You might want to sing it note for note. Don’t worry, be happy.”
Rev. Dr. Ronald B. Brown is the pastor at the First Congregational Church in Southington and a member of the Southington Interfaith Clergy Association. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (860) 628-6958.