A couple of days ago someone was describing the necessities of life in order to have a happy childhood. There were a number of nutritional meals that one had to have every day, indoor plumbing, a good number of shoes and clothes and a number of recreational activities. If one has these things, he went on to say one will have a happy childhood and consequentially a happy adult life. While I agreed that these are things that are important, I did not see the connection between those things and happiness.
A couple of years ago I listened to a Detroit preacher from one of the poorest parts of the city. He said that they are so poor that the letter r has dropped from the word.
I grew up without most of the things listed. Most of us were so poor that instead of wheat bread, we had corn bread. My mother was masterful at using one pound of meat for the whole week. Each one of our meals smelled like it had some meat. Approximately 300 students attended our school which consisted of three buildings and 6 outhouses. We did not know what indoor plumbing was. We carried water from the wells for washing and cooking and each house improvised on what would be called a bath or a shower. Yet most of the friends that I grew up were very happy because we did not know better.
Nevertheless, what we had in abundance was a spirit of optimism. We did not complain that we did not have it, despite knowing that somewhere things could be better. Most of us did not have radios or TV’s, but our houses had so many books. After I finished taking care of the farm animals, I would start reading until my mother would tell me to go to bed because reading in the moonlight would cause me to go blind. We would run into the whole village until midnight listening to old men and women tell stories in front of their homes. I knew of who was falling in love with who, and who was the yentl of our village arranging weddings when the harvest was brought in. I knew the battles of Stalingrad as though they were happening in our village. Come to think of it, when we left the country of Yugoslavia at the age of 15, we still did not have electricity in our house – we still used kerosene lamps.
I do not wish the list of the things that I did not have on anyone, but I do not think that having all the things that are so important will make us happy or more adjusted to society. Apostle Paul tells us that he learned to be content in all circumstances. It is not the possession of things that is of utmost importance, but it is the development of character independent of these things. In my family we also believed that our God was able to supply all of our needs according to his riches in Christ Jesus. Since we had food to eat, some clothes and a place to sleep, we learned to be content.