Sandy Springs: It’s time to feel good about ourselves

There is nothing that quite stirs one’s soul as seeing our fellows rise above adversity. We cheer watching Rocky Balboa sprint up the museum steps. We get chills when he comes off the mat to prove his courage.

And now we, my fellow Sandy Springsteens, are Rocky. In the face of these arduous times we have found the wherewithal to feel that life is good. So says the National Research Center and the International City/County Management Association. The two entities conducted the National Citizen Survey in the last part of 2010.

Quoting from colleague Joel Anderson’s story this Tuesday last: “Eighty-three percent of Sandy Springs residents rated their quality of life as ‘excellent’ or ‘good.’”

Now before you shout, “Yo, Adrian!” let’s do the math. Of the 1,800 surveys that were circulated, 313 were returned. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the 2009 estimated population of our little acre of Zion was 85,625. By the numbers one could make a case the sample does not reflect the majority, but I will not rain on this parade.

Happiness is a slippery little critter — not only to grab ahold of — but to define as well. One of the benefits of living through adverse circumstance is that it proffers the opportunity to strip away the artifice to unearth the truly important.

Many have found they no longer “need” to lease a new luxury car every two years. They no longer mourn the broken dream of buying that beach vacation condo, because they still have a job that offers paid vacation time. Tony restaurant reservations have given way to Netflix and delivery pizza. The latter wangled with a coupon from the Sunday paper.

A friend was cleaning out his grandfather’s barn several years ago. The old gent had lived during the Great Depression and that barn was full of items saved because that era taught parsimony. There was a box of rubber bands, another of used nails and a third labeled “pieces of string too short to use” — a splendid exemplar of a lesson taken to heart.

As the hard times stretch out with no end in sight, many feel we’re in a time overflowing with opportunities to learn. Maybe what will be found on the other side of enduring such circumstance is we are blessed to see that equanimity is found in our own thoughts and feelings. It’s an inside job.

In the 1980 presidential debate, then-candidate Ronald Reagan asked: “Are you better off than you were four years ago?” If we can’t see beyond our bank balance, the price of a gallon of gas or lost benefits at work, the answer is no. But we might also suppose that as the hard times have stretched out, have we found the capacity to realize happiness is not tethered to paying retail.

So what if it’s only 83 percent of 313 people out of a total population of more than 85,000? All things considered, even a resplendent sliver of sunlight is mighty fine on a dark day.

Or as Rocky said: “Don’t sound like much, but it adds up, ya know?”

Jim Osterman lives in Sandy Springs. Reach him at