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Hummel Column: Jealousy, envy and admiration

I sat behind a guy in church on Sunday who was everything I'm not: tall, broad shouldered, younger and good looking. When he stood up I couldn't see the front of the church. He looked to be about 6'4". For an hour I had to look at those broad shoulders or stretch to see around him. I would give anything to have those shoulders and that height. But it will never happen. Should I be jealous of this innocent guy and resent his physical gifts? Should I tone it down to envy or could I possibly be happy for him and just admire the way he looks and let it go?

I hope I'm not the only person alive who continually sees things in others that I wish I had.

When I listen to the two hour "Prairie Home Companion" show on Minnesota Public Radio every Saturday evening starting at 5 p.m., or a replay on Sunday, I hear the bright, creative, funny and multi-talented Garrison Keillor, the producer, main writer and star of the show. Keillor gets to write songs, sing them, sing duets, spin stories ("The News of Lake Wobegone"), host talented guests and generally do what has to be a couple hours of great fun for him and his guests and certainly great fun for his theater and radio audience. Between shows, he's writing books and articles. You couldn't blame a guy for being jealous, envious or admiring (take your pick, you can't be all three at once -- though there may be a fine line between jealousy and envy) of Garrison Keillor.

Most men, as they approach their more mature years, begin to lose their hair. Some a lot, some not so much. If you could do a study of men old enough to be getting Social Security checks, you would probably find that 90 percent of them are losing hair. I just saw a picture of Lute Olson, head basketball coach of the University of Arizona. Olson, a native of Mayville, North Dakota, who once coached basketball in Mahnomen, Minnesota, is a hugely successful coach whose Wildcats won the national title a few years ago and he makes more money in a year than all of Mayville put together. He's about 75 years old now and still coaching. But look at his picture some time. He has this beautiful full head of gleaming white hair, never a single hair out of place. He's one of the lucky 10 percent not losing hair. Is it fair that Lute Olson has it all when the rest of us have, well, less? It would be easy to be jealous or envious of Lute Olson.

When you see somebody sit down at the piano and play for her own pleasure and the enjoyment of everybody around, how can you keep from wishing you could play like that? The question is, what do you do about it -- smash the piano, make snide comments, walk away or applaud and ask for more?

Have you ever seen or just heard Josh Groban sing? This handsome young singer from Canada has a voice that is nothing short of thrilling. He was given a magnificent gift and he has trained it to perfection. Who wouldn't want a voice like that?

There is so much to wish for other than just possessions: a deep speaking voice, muscles, figure, good looks, athletic ability, youth, talent, personality, good health, attitude, true love, good marriage, good children, happy family. Nobody has it all. If Josh Groban sings, it is easy to applaud. If my next door neighbor or my brother could sing like Josh Groban, could I applaud or would I be jealous?

What is happiness, after all? We can't have all the wonderful qualities we'd like to have and certainly no truly happy person can have more than just a trace of jealousy or envy. So what is the answer? To be thankful for whatever we are and to be happy for others for what they are. Not easy at all for any of us, but maybe happiness requires hard work.