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Thursday, April 24, 2014

If there was one gift I could give to my children

If there was one gift I could give to my children, it would be the ability to find contentment.

It's not the same thing as simply wanting them to be content. 

The contentment we most often speak of in western society is fleeting, temporary.  It depends on my ability to satiate my child's desires and it is often fueled by commodities.  If you begin to chase it, it may well turn into an eternal rat-race.  But the ability to be content - that is a sustainable, renewable resource.  And it originates in them, not me.

Kaivopuistonranta, Helsinki (2014)

Of all the good things I could instill in them (if my "one gift" genie act was real), I would pick the ability to find contentment above most others. 

It's good to work hard.  It's good to give your best effort.  It's good to dream big and have incredible goals.  But when you lie down at the end of the day, it's best to spend a few minutes just being.  Being still.  Being the person you are without wanting to be something else.  Being content. 

It's great to hope.  It's great to desire.  It's great to aspire.  Those are wonderful parts of being alive.  But they're all action words.  And when you're in action, it's hard to rest.  You'll find real rest when you pause the action and just let yourself be. 

"Sherpani", Solukhumbu, Nepal (2012)

"Walking in the footsteps of a giant" (Elephant footprint), Sauraha, Chitwan, Nepal (2012)

A wise man named Paul once said,
"I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.  I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want."

Many of us experience only a small range of the spectrum when it comes to living in plenty or in want.  Sometimes we do something "radical" - like a humanitarian aid trip or a mission trip - and for two or three weeks we rough it in a community who lives somewhere farther toward the "in want" side of the spectrum. Weighed down by water purification tablets and high-top hiking boots, we marvel that we're able to survive in such conditions.  The thrill of exotic new things to discover mitigates the impact of the inconveniences, and we comfort ourselves with thoughts of rolling out of our own beds again, biting into a real bagel and sharing unbelievable tales with our friends over brunch. 

But it really takes the tablets running out and the rocks pushing up into our soles before we're faced with the issue of finding contentment while living in want.   Relatively few of us in the western world have gone to bed hungry, literally not knowing if or when the next day would bring an opportunity for a meal.  It's not a judgment, just an observation.  But doesn't it sound crazy that someone could be content in such a situation?

"Rich Man's Breakfast", Guatemala City, Guatemala (2012)

"The Weavers", Chajul, Guatemala (2012)

I think real contentment is the ability to accept the truth of our situation - even for just a time - before we try to change it.  Of course I want my children to be healthy and happy, but no matter where they find themselves in life, and no matter how long, I hope they will be able to find the internal peace of contentment without regard to external factors.

Odessa, Ukraine (2011)

Sauraha, Chitwan, Nepal (2012)


  1. I love your post. You are an amazing writer. I am 19 years old and I am currently struggling with the art of being content. Every day, I am drowning in thoughts of where I am, where I am not, and where I want to be. This hits home. Thank you for your insight.

    AEAN Yashirah Foy

    P.S. I love your name by the way(:


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