Only work, humility will lead to happiness

Perhaps the key to human happiness is waiting for you in your heart of hearts. Let’s look all the way back to Adam and Eve’s boys Cain and Abel for a clue into our species’ weakness.

If you are unfamiliar with the story, Cain and Abel were humanity’s first children and both good workers. Things became dysfunctional after a good harvest when they presented their gifts to God as a sacrifice. God rewarded Abel’s sacrifice, not Cain’s. An infuriated Cain rebelled by slaying his brother Abel, while infamously denouncing brotherly love: ”Am I my brother’s keeper?”

Fast forward a few thousands years and several thousand miles west of Eden to another murder, this time in early America’s Northwest Territory, in a settlement of The Connecticut Western Reserve on July 20, 1800. The newly purchased (1798) pioneer settlement named Warren, Ohio, was founded on the already cleared banks of the Mahoning River.

Two years later Warren recorded its first murder when Joseph McMahon murdered a longtime Native American resident named Captain George.

McMahon and companions had frequently hunted, fished and trapped across the Mahoning Valley with native residents, whose land had been literally sold out from under their feet.

One night after a successful hunt together, McMahon’s men drank up all of Captain George’s whiskey. The ensuing day, Captain George came to Warren expecting reciprocity, but was denied McMahon’s whiskey. Later, a scuffle occurred, injuring McMahon’s son, and the enraged father eventually shot Captain George dead.

Fast forward 214 years to the streets Warren. It’s almost midnight April 14, 2014, as I sit outside and type these words on my laptop I hear gunfire across the city. It makes me want to cry for brotherly love! Cain and Abel be damned, the devil is winning this battle.

11:45 p.m.: ”Pop, pop, pop …” Small-caliber fire coming from the North Park and Porter Street area.

11:47 p.m.: “Pop …” Again small-caliber fire.

12:05 a.m.: ”Crack, crack.” What sounds more like assault rifle echoes across the Mahoning River from the direction of the defunct West Market plaza.

12:31 a.m.: “Pop, pop, pop … (with what sounded like return fire) pop, pop … ” from the Belmont Street area.

So many young men feel disenfranchised because they didn’t do well in school and feel little hope of ”making it big” in our misguided American culture during a rough American economy.

Like Cain or Captain George before them, they are looking to others for their happiness. But the opinions of others are so varied they canceled each other out and amount to nothing.

Still, these young men have been fooled by 24/7 deceptive advertisements showing how happiness is rooted in material goods and the praises of others. One can hardly blame them from being fooled … but it is a lie from hell.

”If society won’t give me what I need to be happy,” their misguided reasoning goes, ”I will simply take it.”

Prison has become a badge of honor to some who minimize criminality. ”It’s all good,” so they say.

Wrong! The true measure of a man / woman, whether felon or Forbes’ list, comes from the humble nature of his / her heart.

Herein is the moral dilemma of Cain and Abel’s story and the bane of brotherly love everywhere in every era: vainglorious expectations for our deeds rooted in the lie of self-sufficiency.

In other words, if you humbly acknowledge everything you have comes from God, then you can’t fall flat chasing the praises of others. Otherwise, regardless of your stature, simply do your best with a good heart and work ethic to behold peace and contentment as your just rewards.

If Cain, Captain George, and the disenfranchised youth of Warren today gave their best without expecting glory in return, America might be functional today.

Meanwhile, as in days of old, whiskey dims our minds and blurs the good intentions of our hearts. Joblessness and sales in alcohol are setting records across Ohio. Even on weeknights the bars are full until closing.

Perhaps local, state, and federal politicians are beholden to powerful influences and the middle class is defenseless against powerful influences of both public and private sectors; regardless, the foundation of the human heart has never changed even since those first days in the land east of Eden.

As the captain of your soul, you can ignore your TV and steer your heart toward sustainable happiness. Remember to focus on what you can control.

Just do your work diligently and never expect a free lunch or a medal of honor for any good deeds you do and it will all be good.

And speaking of expecting nothing in return – April is volunteer month. Then again, making a positive contribution is something.

Herman is a Warren resident. Email him at