In just 13 words, Aesop captures within this quote the power of contentment and so much more than that. But who will hear the message through all of the seasonal noise?
As we Americans take pause to observe Thanksgiving, the hustle and bustle of the annual holiday often has us swallowing the feast of contentment without even tasting it. Rather than slowing down and peacefully enjoying the crust of simplicity, we feel it necessary to anxiously partake in a banquet of complexity.
In the days prior to counting our blessings around the Thanksgiving table, we cram in extra hours at the office, scramble to prepare for travel, and hurry to reach our destination, that is, assuming we only have one destination during the one or two-day break.
After the brief moment of thankfulness, we jump into an insane day of buying things, none of which we will be thankful for this time next year, and then hurry to get back home and face a busy week of catch-up work waiting at the desk, as we wonder how we can possibly fit in all the holiday parties to come in December.
"We tend to forget that happiness doesn't come as a result of getting something we don't have, but rather of recognizing and appreciating what we do have." ~ Frederick Keonig
Thankfulness and happiness have overlapping meanings. But the meaning of happiness has evolved (or rather devolved) over time to be something more like fleeting pleasure than enduring contentment. The person who has recently acquired the latest tech gadget will likely be more thankful at this moment than the person who has just the basic physiological needs -- food, shelter and clothing -- but nothing more.
However, the art of thankfulness is rooted in contentment, which is true happiness. And to be rich is to be happy with what you have now. To paraphrase my late father-in-law, "All you need is a roof over your head, clothes on your back, food on the table, and someone that loves you."
That, dear reader, is the essence of wealth. He died financially poor but rich in every other way.
"I love to go out and see all the things I am happy without." ~ Socrates
This Thanksgiving, discover how rich you are now. And do your best not to allow the craziness of the holiday season to cause anxiety, hunger, or impoverishment.
Try a few of these ideas:
- Enjoy the crust of simplicity: Eat less but taste more. Enjoy the food but also embrace the faster pace of the holiday. Observe it as life in action; a cause of celebration, not stress.
- Light a candle: Take your own moment to meditate on the things in life that money cannot buy -- the love of a friend, the wind blowing in the trees, or a starlit night.
- Make one person happy: Intently listen as a friend or family member tells you their story; smile and encourage them to share more of it with you.
- If Black Friday is unavoidable: Happily go along for the ride so you can be with the people you love. But also remind yourself how happy you are without all of the things everyone else is buying. And if you buy, do it for someone else and keep it simple.
To be thankful is to be content; to be content is to be rich.
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