Over dessert in the fancy restaurant he leans forward, takes her hand and asks: “I just don’t love you that way. I just don’t feel it. You wouldn’t want me to fake what I don’t naturally feel, would you? That’s not the kind of love you want from me, is it?” Joan thinks to herself: “Yes, if that’s all that you can give me… I’ll take it. I’ll settle for that tiny bit of happiness.” Just then, a woman passing by their table stops suddenly and, without even acknowledging Joan’s presence, places her hand on the man’s shoulder and says, “Thanks, Jack, for last night.” Kissing him lightly on the forehead she sails away. Without a word Joan gets up and goes home to her cluttered house.
“Cluttered”, however, is too polite a word for the reality: Joan is a serious hoarder. Rooms no longer have designations such as “Dining Room”, “Bedroom” or even “Kitchen” since all rooms, packed to the ceiling, have become nothing more than storage lockers. And there is no particular thing that she collects; when feeling down… or inadequate or upset or whatever… Joan heads for the thrift store knowing that the moment she steps inside the store the happiness of possibly finding a treasure will kick in. And it does: In this bin, on that table, hanging on that rack! Like the drug addict needing bigger and bigger doses in order to get that high, Joan never leaves with less than three or four bulging bags of booty. When she gets home she tosses the bags onto some pile of previously happy finds that remain unappreciated.
We live in a consumer culture where every television ad’s purpose is to convince us that the happiness we yearn for can be bought. Unfortunately, the happiness we seek is not outside of ourselves; the happiness that seems to be missing is actually a sense of peace within ourselves. In a world so filled with conflict and stress there is an even greater need for us to find peace and happiness within ourselves… but how?!!!
What has worked for me is the cultivation within myself of gratitude through the verbal expression if it. Instead of my heart’s focus being on what I don’t have, I verbally thank God for what I do have. When I step into a nice hot shower in the morning, while the warmth envelopes me I say aloud: “Thank you Lord for this hot water when there are those who have no access to any.” When I finish a meal I say aloud: “Thank you Lord for that food when there are those who have none.” I have found that years of doing this now automatically generates an awareness of what I have as well as a desire to express my gratitude for it. What we focus on we become: By expressing gratitude, we become grateful. By feeling grateful we experience happiness. If we believe our culture’s lies that we “need need need” then we will feel that there is a hole in our life. If we cultivate gratitude for what we do have, then whatever we might not have will not become our illusive idol of happiness.
Are you grateful for anything today?