Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Being Content

We live in a time when many folk feel extreme pressure in being measured by what they own.  The latest smart phone, the most gadgets to help organize their lives.  Where homes tend to look more like displays from catalogs or glossy magazines than places to find comfort, joy and family closeness.  We seem to be loosing our need to build stronger families but spend hours building networks of people we will never meet face to face and that's not all bad, but in perspective, if we are not close to our immediate family members, perhaps we should cultivate those relationships first.   I watched some video clips of the History of Boston yesterday and over and over, people talked about how "content" they were in the olden days  (30's-50's) with so little.
A 5 cent apple was a great treat.  If families were poor, the children didn't seem to realize it because the fun they had in play was free.  A day at the beach..no need for fancy beach equipment, an old blanket and a peanut butter sandwich sufficed. Playing ball in the vacant lot.  Cleaning up Mrs O'Connor's yard for her.
On a hot summer day, just reading under the tree in the back yard.  Winter was spent skating on Spot Pond or sledding in the cemetery.  All free, all fun and some of life's fondest memories.  Contentment was a feeling felt each and every day.    Mothers were content to just visit the neighbor for a cup of coffee, no need to go some expensive coffee shop to chat.  Home was perfect, you could be right next door watching for the children to come home and build a relationship that involved home life.   My mother and grandmother spent many an hour chatting over the fence with our neighbor as they both hung up laundry on Monday mornings.  Clothes lines were near fence lines just for that reason.   My mother learned new recipes from visiting her friends while they cooked and vice versa.  Contentment was normal.  No one I knew growing up, had their houses redecorated every 7 years because of styles changing.  You got a new couch when the old one was falling apart.  Even our wealthy friends and family lived that way.   Of course Old Yankee families tend to be practical and not into showing off, even if they owned half of Boston.  
These days, we seem to have lost our ability to be content.  We are always shopping for more, more of anything and everything.  People have storage buildings, rent storage space, have garages so full there is no room for the car, yet they still shop for more, trying to fill some void that cannot be filled with stuff.   Our stuff   is not meeting our needs but we don't stop to figure that out, that Golden Ring is always dangling in front of us, trying to seduce us into thinking it will answer something for us, fulfill us.  But, it doesn't.  Its hollow and not and the thrill of getting it, lasts only a short time.   What is that void we are trying to fill ?  Could it be we have simply forgotten what things really matter in life ?  Family, friends, having faith, having hope, having more to our lives than name brands, "high end" whatever's.  Contentment comes when we figure out, that what counts are the very things that are held in our hearts and not in our hands.

my grandmother holding the neighbors cat @ 1916


Morning's Minion said...

If I had to make a guess--and this is a huge over-simplification--I think the creeping plague of consumerism began as families tried to re-organize after WWII. Two generations had been devastated by world wars--women had stepped forward into the workforce of necessity. Many whose husbands or sweethearts had been lost would not have the option of a traditional home life.
The late 40's and the 50's [the time when I was growing up in rural New England] saw the very beginnings of the high tech era which really exploded in the 80's and since.
My family has never been greatly invovled--we're of old Yankee stock, raised to conservative ways, hard work, thriftiness.
I can think of a few years after my children were grown and I was working part time outside the home, when shopping as recreation held a brief novelty. I've had to exercise more discipline about bringing home some 'find' at Goodwill or a charity shop--learning to say 'no' to something appealing because I don't need, don't have room for it, even if its something desirable and inexpensive. I'm amazed at the amount of time people can spend trolling a mall!
I'm also guessing that TV has a giant part to play in the 'gotta have' syndrome. From the 70's sitcoms forward the all-American family has been portrayed, unrealistically no doubt, as living in a lovely suburban home with all the current gadgets and decor. The 'ads' every few minutes may be a come-on for some, while others of us are simply annoyed by the blatant pitch for one more silly item. [One of the reasons I don't watch tv!]
So many people live in suburbs or cities where they don't/can't garden, can't walk along a dusty back road listening to bird song.
I'm encouraged when I learn of folks who are content to live a simpler lifestyle, but I don't think we're going to see mass numbers of converts!

Kim said...

Great post!! Thank you for you insight. I'm going to impliment some of these this summer.
We live a rather simple life now, but there's always room for improvement! Wisdom from the past is always treasured. I'm 45 and my grandparents would all be over 100 now. I so wish I could have gleaned more from them before they went to be with the Lord.


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