Growing up I didn’t need too many things. I was happy for a sunny day outside playing with my friends or a rainy day inside coloring or making cookies with my family. Material possessions weren’t important to me. I was just happy to be myself and have fun.
Times have changed since those care free days. For me, as well as children who don’t get the same joys out of the experiences I did when I was younger. Kids today look up to people older than them and see how much we all need and have to have the newest product. They think it’s not fair if someone has something better than you… and I don’t mean that 64 pack of crayons anymore.
Now don’t get me wrong, I love the things I do have, but sometimes it takes life changing experiences to see the bigger picture that we often miss and the little things we don’t realize. I believe that some of the most important things in life are too often overlooked.
My first trip to New Orleans, Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina, opened my eyes to a new perspective. We spent the week working as volunteers, sharing stories and creating friendships with two families. They taught me some of the biggest lessons in life I have learned.
Both families lost everything in the storm. Their homes were destroyed, their lifestyles were changed, and all their belongings were gone. We thought “How could anyone be happy and full of hope after such destruction? Especially two years later without any progress?” Yet they were thankful and happy.
The children in one of the families were teenagers in high school. Most teens usually aren’t happy unless they have the coolest item that everyone wants. But that didn’t matter to the teens we met. They were just happy and excited to have the chance to go back to school and see some of their friends.
Material possessions have taken the place of many simple and important things in life. Everyone is often more focused with the fast paced life they are living and often don’t even have time to sit down for a family dinner. There are other things that are more important that have to get done. But if we took that time, even one night a week, to sit down and be with family and friends everything would still get done.
The families from New Orleans, our new friends, reminded us “Possessions can be replaced. Lives cant.” Family, friends, memories, and hope filled their lives and brought them happiness. They knew that with the help of one another, and the help of volunteers, life would return to normal. Material possessions weren’t important. The little things, the ones I loved as a child, and the simple things we often over look, were what they did have. Their family and friends around them, and memories made through the years were all that truly mattered.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.