“May be a simple life but thats okay, yeah
If you ask me baby I think I got it made”
– Darius Rucker, from his song, “Alright”
Like most Southerners, South Carolina native, Darius Rucker understands happiness often springs from the simple things in life.
Now, a study from the University of Chicago confirms this notion and has “discovered” what we could have told them a long time ago. The earth-shaking research concluded that true, bonafide happiness doesn’t come from the big thrilling events in our lives, but instead stems from the simple, ordinary moments in our regular, hum-drum days.
And everyone in Mayberry said, “No duh.”
The academic study revealed that although people like to experience short-lived excitement like jumping out of an airplane, or seeing an opening night Broadway show (I’ll take the show), true happiness and the best memories in life are found by leaping from a rope swing into the cold creek with a group of friends on a hot summer afternoon, or seeing a “show” performed by the children in the church fellowship hall. Boring to some city-slickers, but those of us raised on grits fully comprehend the joys of simplicity.
Although there are those in the South who have begun to assimilate with the rest of the country when it comes to living in the fast lane with a constant need to be entertained, most of us still know how to take it easy and are happiest when using old fashioned face to face conversation. We’ve found something gets lost if we try to text a Jerry Clower joke, and anyway, no one is completely sure just how to spell “OOooo-weeee!”
The simple style of our lives may also be related in part to economics. Since our region ranks lower on the national income level, we may not have as many opportunities for big adventure, but at the same time, Southerners also rank highest in charitable giving – because helping our neighbors is another simple thing that makes us incredibly happy.
Our penchant for the easy life may also be related to Dixie’s milder climate. Being able to get out of the house and swing beneath the giant live oak for the better part of the year gives us time to decompress and value the simplistic beauty of nature instead of being trapped indoors with contraptions that beep and flash.
If I close my eyes and think of all the exciting places I’ve been and the excellent, fancy meals I’ve eaten, the happiest dinner I remember was the simplest of all.
Weary of a long hot summer packed with a series of stressful events, I decided to shake things up and bypassed the regular kitchen and dining room tables and instead, opened the gate-legged table in the living room, set it with mismatched dinnerware and created a centerpiece of pretty weeds and a half-burned halloween candle. I pulled out all the leftovers from the refrigerator, and created a mishmash of food that would have earned me a failing grade in any home economics class. I called my family into the room and told them we were having a “crazy supper,” and they had 60 seconds to run around the house, find a costume and return to their seats.
We sat around the table that night, with two little boys laughing hysterically, wearing hats, inside-out shirts and flowing capes, eating a scrumptious supper of cold spaghetti, meatloaf, pickled okra and pimento cheese. As Louis Armstrong music played in the background, my husband looked at me through his Batman mask, and we knew we had found deep and memorable happiness through an easy dinner of simple leftovers.
So, go ahead and search for happiness by running with the bulls, swimming with the sharks or climbing a mountain. Southerners don’t need a university study to tell us these kinds of things only bring temporary joy, because we’ve always known the greatest happiness is found upon returning home from our adventures to find our dog wagging his tail on the front porch of our very happy, yet simple, Southern home.
This story first appeared in my newspaper column, “Southern with a Gulf Coast accent.”