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The Secret to Contentment

Today I met a man who is content with his life. No joke. I asked him what he wanted most in life, and he said, “I’m content.”

“You don’t want anything?” I asked skeptically.

He shook his head. “There’s nothing I want. I’m content with what I have.”

Credit: Ian Borsuk (https://flic.kr/p/aD9hAP)

Credit: Ian Borsuk (https://flic.kr/p/aD9hAP)

Last weekend, I moved into my new house with six other young adults. We’re all in a program that covers our living expenses for a year while we have volunteer positions in an impoverished community. We don’t have to worry about not having enough because our basic needs are paid for. That said, it’s not exactly high-class living either. We’re encouraged to live simply and experience solidarity with the communities we serve. We’re meant to live alongside our communities, not above them.

In my community, our house is considered part of the “ghetto.” It’s an older home. There’s no air conditioning or dishwasher. The floors and carpet need replacing. The furniture looks scavenged from fifty estate sales and a back-alley dumpster. The kitchen towels smell like kerosene. Goatheads grow in the backyard, threatening bike tires. This house is not high-class.

I asked the man I met today what the secret is to lasting contentment.

“No worries.”

He went on, “Who cares what people think of you? Who cares if someone has something better than what you have? Do you need to have the best of everything?”

He doesn’t let those common concerns bother him. Instead, he satisfies himself with what he has and what he can afford.

Now I don’t want to imply contentment is the ideal state. Contentment doesn’t motivate people to set goals, reach for dreams, and change bad circumstances for the better. Dissatisfaction does those things. If we were contented all the time, we’d never strive to improve. We’d vegetate.

Yet if we have no contentment in life, we are sure to destroy ourselves. We push to acquire and achieve all while failing to be even a drop happier for it. It does us no good, if not doing us harm. Why not save time and be happy with the good things in our grasp? It doesn’t take much to be happy. One look around can do the trick if you have the right eyes.

No, my house isn’t glamorous or even clean. It’s cluttered and dusty, but what luxury to have a roof and unbroken windows! Or to have a lock and key! We have a TV (circa 1981) and two pianos (somewhat in tune). Each housemate has their own room, with a bed and pillow. A cool breeze drifts through my open window to soothe me to sleep every night.

 

 

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Posted by on August 17, 2014 in Other thoughts

 

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