Every day, about two in the afternoon, my son expects me to take him for a “ride.” What that means is that he and I get in the car--me in the driver’s side, him in the passenger’s--and I drive him around the area for about twenty minutes to an hour. Usually, somewhere along the way, we must pass a fire station—hopefully one that has their garage doors open so he can view all the fire engines inside. He just loves trucks!
I know what some of you are thinking, “Awww, how cute.” And then you’re wondering why I’d let my little guy in the front seat for this excursion. “Shouldn’t he be sitting in the back, strapped into his car seat?”
Well no. My son is twenty-four, mostly non-verbal, and has autism. So, he gets to sit up front with me. However, … it’s still cute! Sometimes he sings to the music (with no real words), and almost every day as we pass the Fire Station, he’ll say—in his own way—“Tank-ew.” He’s just that grateful.
We’ve been doing this for years, but for some reason, this fall is different as I listen to George Winston’s piano collection, entitled December, and take the windy, treed-over roads surrounding my neighborhood. The melancholic melodies fill me and touch me as I contemplate the beauty of God’s creation in the fiery reds and golds of dying leaves. Fall is my favorite season! It’s a wonderful time for contemplation. Lately, I’ve been contemplating gratefulness.
Thanksgiving just passed. People keep asking that question, “what are you thankful for?” My heart is full of lists of things, but at these times I often pull out the perfunctory answers meant to satisfy my turn in the round of people who were also asked the same question. You’d think I wasn’t thankful at all by the lightness and speed with which I treat my answer. But the truth is, the real answer is so lengthy, so great, so profound that I’d have to be completely narcissistic to assume others would give time to listen to all these thoughts. And still, it must be said, so I will give a portion of it here. And if you have a care to find out, you have the option to read it …
Some of you may know that I’ve been exploring screenwriting. That means I’m reading books and blogs on the subject, listening to podcasts, taking classes, and joining organizations built around the industry. A few months ago, I heard a podcast of an interview with a Christian screenwriter who has written screenplays for a number of Christian films. He made a comment that has resonated so deeply within me that I find it playing inside my head all day long. It went something like this … (wait for it!) …
“I live in a small house so I can say NO to stuff.”
Alright, stop laughing at how not-really-profound this statement is … to you, because it is very profound … to me. And not just because I live in a small house. He even uses my favorite word … and stuff.
Take note. This is very important! Encapsulated in that sentence is a good part of the secret to happiness. For you see, this screenwriter has MORE control over his life than other screenwriters, simply because his happiness does not depend on, well … stuff. Not his house, not his possessions, not the kinds of accoutrements that are required to create the IMAGE of happiness. Instead, his happiness comes from something else. Something that can’t be bought or sold. Maybe it resides in that small house he lives in (consequently, his wife is often part of his interviews). Or maybe his happiness comes from someone who resides in his soul. He is a Christian, so I’d like to think Jesus is a large part of that, if not the whole.
Either way, I’d bet it starts with a relationship with someone he loves, and/or someone who loves him.
I think about my own little house. Too often over the years, I’d compare it to others I’ve known who had much more. I’d lament the fact that while other neighbors had come and gone to larger homes, my husband, son, and I are still here (as well as my daughter when college is out). I think about the decisions my husband made so that he could be home with the family more and pursue activities he loves. I think about the low-paying job I’ve maintained because I loved the people who work there, the ministry they do, and the flexibility it’s given me to focus on my family (as well as ministries that fulfill me). I know now (cuz I didn’t always know at first), we both made the right choice! These choices also allowed me the time to pursue my own passion, which, it turns out, happens to be writing.
Now, I am on the precipice of new things, new projects that I couldn’t have pursued had I not had the freedom of time to pursue them (more on those later). I have this because I had said NO to stuff. We didn’t require the extra income. Not because we were so rich, but because we didn’t NEED to be (we’re seriously thrifty!). Our happiness lies right here. Right where I am. Because I have family who loves me and a Savior who was willing to die for me.
A lifeless mansion filled with shiny objects just cannot compare!