Trite is trite for a reason.
I have lists of books I want to read. The Bible, the Torah, the Quran. Aristotle, Plato, Confucius. The Odyssey, Moby Dick, Ulysses. The Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Harry Potter. I even have a lofty goal of reading an autobiography of every single United States president just to learn more about the history of this nation. Not to mention just about every other awesome novel, art book, and travel book ever written. I have goals.
I have lists of things I want to learn. Spanish, quilting, guitar, writing, photography, Greek history, window painting, color theory, yoga, floral design, grant writing, etymology, facts about every state, storytelling skills, Kiswahili, piano, political science, the periodic table of elements, women’s issues, art history, chalk art, how to garnish food artistically, how to fold napkins creatively, meditation, nutrition…the list goes on forever.
I have lists of projects going on. I am writing a business plan to be a traveling face painter. I have an Instagram page about my stuffed turtle that helps kids learn about the world. I continually raise awareness and money for women’s issues in Kenya, Africa. This blog is a HUGE project that I wish I could spend loads more time on. I am writing a business plan for an online t-shirt company that promotes a positive body image for anybody who needs it. Not to mention any projects that are asked of me at work, at church, or from school teachers who sometimes ask me to come and speak to their students about various subjects.
There are trails I want to hike, countries I want to see, faces I want to paint, people I want to meet…it’s endless.
The point is that I want a lot.
There is nothing wrong with wanting more. We all want more. Some want a bigger house, some want a better car, some want more money, some want even more basic things like a better education, or to get affordable medicine, or to get their teeth or hearing aids fixed. Some people want things they NEED like food in their cupboard, or a warm place to sleep at night. It’s OK to want more. It’s OK to even want what you think you can’t have. Maybe it’s not possible for you to bare children. Maybe you are limited in life because you have a criminal record. There are a million reasons to want more in life. There are a million reasons we might not be able to have more. But we can still want it.
Oh, I know there are all kinds of people out there who will tell you that wanting more will only make you greedy. Some will say that you are never satisfied. Some will pass judgement and make you feel small for not being able to survive on less. After all, minimalism is trendy these days. We are told to simplify and give things away we don’t use. Of course you should do that, if it will make you feel better. But wanting to have or keep those things isn’t wrong unless it feels like a burden. Desire is good. Desire is healthy. Wanting things is OK.
But, my friends, there is one catch – you have to be content with what you have.
I know, I know…there is always a catch. You want to be thin but you have to eat right. You want to be an intellectual but you have to read books. You want to be wealthier but that means taking chances and working harder. The catch always kind of sucks doesn’t it? The catch with wanting more isn’t that hard though. It doesn’t mean more work, it means recognizing the work you’ve already done.
Being content with what you have doesn’t mean you can’t want more. It just means that if you never get more, you aren’t out any losses. I struggled with this for a long time. I even accosted my friend Bob one time to ask him about this. Bob was a pastor and I was working in a little store that was never very busy. I always read books there and I was reading one night about a Christian theory on contentment. The book kept telling me to be be grateful, but the theory stopped there. I was so upset by this and Bob just happened to walk into this little store that night and without even saying hello I started questioning him immediately about how I was supposed to never want another thing in my life and how that was even possible and didn’t this book understand that we are HUMANS and humans WANT things and God was the one who created us that way so how can he expect us to NOT want things? Once I slowed down long enough to allow him to breathe, he gave a hardy laugh and then proceeded to dwarf me with his wisdom and explain that being content with what you have doesn’t mean that you can’t want more. It just simply means you have to be content with what you have. It’s that simple.
This is how people of very low means can be happy. We have so much to learn from them! I once lived in a very small village in the bush of Kenya, Africa. There were so many children there who had so little. Rags for clothes, scraps for food, and toys were a luxury they didn’t even know they were missing. I remember one day I saw some kids playing with a wheelbarrow and they were SO HAPPY! I want this happiness for you. For me. For everybody! We make things complicated, but really, it’s not all that hard.
I want to read so many books, and watch so many movies, and listen to so many songs and podcasts… I want to travel to so many countries, and spend time with so many friends, and never miss a precious moment with my family… I want to try so many foods, learn all about healthy eating, and hike until I can’t feel my legs anymore… But if I never get to do any of that – not one single thing off of any of those lists – I am still content. I get restless, and anxious, and impatient and I daydream WAY too much. But if I never realize another thing, another cent, or another person in my life, I am still content. I know the world isn’t done with me yet, and I am most definitely not done with the world, and I have to remind myself often that I am NOT old, that I DO still have time, and that it’s NEVER too late to learn something new. But I am still content. It takes practice – seriously, DAILY practice – but it can be done.
Today I am grateful for everything that I have and for know the power of gratitude in my life.