Can It Get Any Better??
I don’t want my kids to have a better life than mine.
Oh, don’t hear me wrong—it’s not that I wish ill on my children. The truth is, I don’t think there IS a better life than the one I’m living now. My wife and I have a really good life…and I don’t know how it could get any better. Yet, I hear from so many around me that they still want that ‘better life’ for their children…but can we really expect life to get better and better and better?
Is a better life a bigger house? If our houses in America get any bigger, we’ll have to start calling them biospheres! I don’t wish a bigger house on my kids—the taxes, upkeep and cleaning are plenty, thank you, for our 1200 sq.ft. home. And, besides, in four or five years, all our kids will be grown and gone…and this house will suddenly seem big and empty for just the two of us.
Then…more toys?? I’ve seen the children who have been given copious amounts of toys, more than you or I ever received in our childhood. And, the result? Usually messy houses and children with little regard for their things (more toys = more need for space = ‘need’ for bigger house…!). No, I don’t think more toys (for children or adults!) are the key to a better life.
How about a bigger, better car? We’ve already learned in the US (I hope!) that bigger cars are NOT the way to go. So, I can’t hope for my kids to have bigger and better cars. We have a Toyota and Ford…affordable, reliable and economical. If I wish nicer, ‘better’ cars on my kids, then I’m wishing higher insurance, higher repair costs…and is that a better life??
What about a better income?? That memorable study at Princeton University released in 2010 shows us that income ‘buys’ us happiness up until around $75,000 a year…but after that, the more income doesn’t really do that much for us. But, then again, is that really going to do it?? From our travels and lives in Latin American (Venezuela and Mexico), we learned that happiness is not connected to income, cars, houses and stuff. We saw people so poor—even by their own national standards—that were amazingly happy, blessedly content in life. So, more money is not necessarily a better life!
There tended to be a couple of common factors in the lives of our friends…the factors that lead, I believe, to a ‘better life.’ First of all, the people we met and shared with had a contagious contentment. They were simple people with simple lives…and they weren’t plotting and planning to get bigger, better, faster, more, more, more. How refreshing! They were able to be happy with what little they had. My wife and I have learned that this contentment comes through decision—we decide to be happy with what we have. As someone has said it, “It’s not getting what you want; it’s wanting what you’ve got.” And, second, they were a people of faith, a people with a deep, life-affecting trust in God. They lived out well that passage in Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi—“…for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content…” (Phil.4:11). I’m convinced that contentment and faith/trust are inextricably intertwined.
So, can life get any better?? Well, as I sit here in my house with the heat on, I guess the only way life could be better would be a geographic change—towards the Caribbean! But, no, I don’t wish my children a better life than mine…I only hope they have as good a life as I’ve had, as I have—complete with faith and contentment. I hope my children experience all the joys, difficulties, love and hard times that will shape and prove their lives…and I hope that in the midst of that living that they, too, will find the real good life. Does it get any better than this?