Discovering Contentment

“Good friends, good books, and a sleepy conscience: this is the ideal life.” 
― Mark Twain

I once went to Ecuador to work in a village to help pave streets and provide safe drinking water. We were told to be careful not to push all our ideas about how the villagers could have a better life. Even though they didn’t have many of the things we think we need to be happy, they were actually quite content. They had their families, beautiful landscapes, fresh food, and seventy-eight-degree temperatures every day. 

One day, I stumbled on a large area where they kept the village trash. It was a mess, to say the least. It was miserable. It didn’t look like a place where anyone could be happy. But then I saw a little boy flying a homemade kite made out of an old trash bag and sticks, joyfully running down a path, smiling and laughing, just as happy as he could be. He was definitely making the best of things. I guess it’s true that one man’s trash is man’s treasure!

It’s a sad paradox that we’ve grown up into a culture that is so used to having plenty that we never have enough! Recently, I took my son to college orientation. He is my first one to “launch” out on his own, so it’s all pretty traumatic and mind-boggling, of course. As the college official tried to prepare parents for the agonizing changes ahead, a question came up about how much money we should give our kids to sustain them while they were away from home. Her short answer was, “If you have everything you need and want now as an eighteen-year-old-kid, it’s all downhill from here.” Lots of heads nodded, but she didn’t stop there. “There are two things that get young folks in trouble,” she added. “Too much time and too much money on their hands.” 

The truth is, most of us DO have what we need; we just need to realize it.

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