I was 14 years old when I arrived home after a prolonged walk through the extended neighborhood. “You were gone a long time,” remarked my brother.
“Indeed,” I replied. “I was mulling over the thought that the people I passed in the small houses are probably just as happy as the people in the big houses.”
“Uff-dah,” said my brother, “that must have been a doozy of a walk.” And all of these many years later, I am still puzzling it out.
One thing you know about me is that I was supposed to be a billionaire. This was not just empty dreaming. I had it all mapped out, since I was 12 – a graph of projected earnings and compounded interest stretching well into my 60’s. Roth retirement accounts and fully-matched 401(k) contributions. I remember, as early as the fourth grade, completing a monthly budget of expected expenses for when I moved out on my own. Since the time I was 8, I would tally my daily earnings (including every penny I found on the ground) on a sheet of graph paper hung next to my bed before going to sleep.
By the time I was preparing to graduate high school (at the top of my class), I had begun to have doubts. Should I pursue the course of greatest financial compensation, or live on a beach selling drinks mixed in coconut shells? One, I knew, would make me happy, the other was oh-so-much-more sensible.
Today, I am incredibly gratified by my work. I learn and practice new skills that are meaningful to me. I set my own hours, work from home, and when I want a break all I have to do is mark it on the calendar. And my income hovers right around the federal poverty level. Am I as happy as the people in the big houses?
Having never lived in a big house, I really can’t say. But when I am clear-headed, I know that the things that matter to me most – my friends, my family, and my health – benefit from my flexible work schedule. God gave us only ten commandments, and one of them was not to covet our neighbors’ possessions. Let us trust in His wisdom, find joy in the bounty we have been granted, and remember that we are blessed simply to be here. Amen.