This I Believe

Sarah - Western Springs, Illinois
Entered on February 25, 2007
Age Group: Under 18
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Contentedness in Simplicity

Growing up in the heart of middle class America, there are certain things that I have come to expect from life. In our society, material belongings and classy rankings have become deciding factors of happiness. Everyone seems to be making it a goal to die wealthy, to have the greatest brand name possessions, to associate with the best and brightest of the social hierarchy. Life seems to have become nothing more than a false front.

I believe that the purest, most sincere form of happiness comes not from possessions or self-satisfaction, but from being content with utter simplicity. The joys of material possessions are short-lived, and as soon as the newness wears off, they mean nothing. Seeing people so fulfilled merely by things that I take for granted is striking; rather than feeling more fortunate than them, I feel petty and humbled.

My family has always taught me that I am blessed to bless others. The second Saturday of every month, we cook supper for a local organization called BEDS, which feeds and provides lodging for the homeless during the winter season. From time to time I also volunteer at a nearby thrift store that sells high quality second-hand clothing and uses the proceeds to benefit inner-city Christian schools. Through these two programs, I have come into contact with many people who would be considered less-fortunate than me, but I am by no means a happier or better person than they are just because of where I eat my meals or buy my clothes. I have met people who have nothing to show for themselves but a minimum wage job and an undesirable lifestyle that they cannot escape from, yet they are so utterly content with just having a roof over their heads and the company of the people that they care about. It is a satisfaction that cannot be found in a pair of overpriced shoes or dinner at a steakhouse.

It turns out that the small, simple things matter a whole lot more than anything else. Someone once said, “Happiness is not having what you want, but wanting what you have.” The happiest people I know are the ones who are content with life as it is. In the long run, styles change and fair-weather friends are entirely useless. The simple things, the things that do not cost anything, are the things that last. Playing the last rounds of golf with my grandfather as he lost his ability to walk, dancing in the rain after a summer of draught, the serenity of sitting on a beach and staring at the night sky, getting the chance to say “I love you” before it is too late; those are the things that really matter, the true deciding factors of happiness.