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What To Do About Worry

August, in the past as a parent and a public-school teacher, was a time to start worrying about how the new school year was going to be for my boys and for myself. For the boys, was it to be a school year filled with notes home from the teacher, missing homework and lost textbooks? For me, was it going to be a year with a difficult student, new unreasonable state expectations and stomach bugs everywhere? These worries are in my past but some of my past worries may be your present-day worries. Once a worry gets started it seems to take control of your whole being. It can cause stomach aches, interrupt your sleep and steal your happiness. I decided that I wanted to try to help people lift themselves out of worry so they can be happy. While googling the words worry and happiness (my opposite of worry), I found this wonderful quote by Joseph Addison that I knew would be perfect. “The grand essentials to happiness in this life are something to do, something to love, and something to hope for.”

I wanted to find the quote's source. While searching I found the quote was mis-attributed and should be credited to Alexander Chalmers, a Scottish journalist who wrote in the early 1800's. But wait, the plot thickens! After more reading I discovered that the quote actually came from a work by George Washington Burnap. He was an early American Unitarian minister and lecturer who wrote during the early 1800's. This quote was taken from a series of lectures called “The Sphere and Duties of a Woman: A Course of Lectures". The book was dedicated in 1847: “To the ladies of Baltimore these lectures were written for their entertainment and are respectfully dedicated.” Here is the quote in context.

“. . . She is fitted to find happiness in that relation by the affections of her heart. The grand essentials to happiness in this life are something to do, something to love, and something to hope for. We all must have something to love. Especially is this the case with woman, whose capacity for affection is much greater than that of man.”

As I read this, I was shocked because I did not want to show support for the idea that women must be told what can make them happy and that men are not capable of showing as much affection as women. Regardless of the quote's dubious source, it really seemed to me to be a great way for either gender to deal with “worry.”

The first part of the quote says to “find something to do.” That says to me that I need to get a change of scenery. For me, that would be to go outside and walk, watch, and listen to birds or pick up and look at rocks.

The second part of the quote is about having something to love. Notice it says “something” not “someone.” I don’t think this means to idolize objects in your possession but to figure out what you love about something and then figure out how to use it to make you happy. For example, if you like to bake, make something, and then surprise a neighbor with it. One thing I love is birdwatching. I have an app on my phone that listens to the bird songs and identifies the bird. I also have a very cool one that identifies rocks. It makes me happy to know the identity of the bird I'm hearing or seeing or what kind of rock I found.

The last part of the quote is hard and that is where I think faith comes into play. Philippians 4:6-7 is very comforting to me, and I hope it is for you.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (NRSVUE).

My worries or your worries, the next time you are worried, I hope this will help you find peace until the worry goes away.


Burnap, George Washington. The Sphere and Duties of Woman: A Course of Lectures. Baltimore: J. Murphy, 1848.


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