We were away for the past week, visiting family in upstate New York. My in-laws have a very beautiful home and they are gracious hosts so it felt like a week in the best BnB imaginable, even the dogs get pampered there. I really like my in-laws, they are truly wonderful and loving people. I especially admire my father-in-law, who started out on the second shift in a factory and through perseverance and hard work, has managed to move into the highest circles of executives at the large multinational corporation where he has worked for nearly 40 years. Despite their success, they remain in essence the people they were and have not been drawn into a life of lavish consumption.
While we were there, we met their neighbors. They have two small children around the same age as my daughter and the kids loved playing together. My daughter called their house the "park" because they had every imaginable plaything available. they had a bouncy house, a water slide, a big play structure, bikes, scooters, electric cars, a basement playroom and I'm sure more. Talking to the mother, I learned they were planning for an in-ground pool soon. And though they were perfectly nice people and friendly and welcoming to us, I couldn't help but be bothered by the abundance of stuff.
Maybe it was envy. It would be nice to have those kinds of resources. Who hasn't imagined winning the lottery and what you would do with your new found millions? We ourselves used to have a bigger income. Right now, our income is about a third of what it used to be before seminary, and I do hope this is a temporary period and that I can find gainful employment on the other side of this.
But in lots of ways our lives are much richer now than they used to be. Things are tight, but we aren't really wanting for anything. I wish we could save more and put some away for retirement, but our day to day needs are met. I think I am probably more contented now than I have ever been. Partly that's the simplicity of our lives that allows us to focus on the really important stuff, partly its directing my life towards fulfilling my calling. If I could wish for anything for my daughter, it wouldn't be a bouncy house or pool (thought they are fun!) but to know she is loved, that she has a part and a role in life, and that real happiness comes as a gift to be received and cannot be bought.