There’s so much comparison in our world today, it’s hard to not dream what life would be like if you had more money, better-behaving kids, a more understanding spouse, or a less stressful job. My kids like to remind me we don’t go on many lavish vacations. It’s true. I have a hard time spending thousands on summer and spring break getaways. Although when I have the funds, I make myself invest in a few excursions. But I’ve realized I take the most joy and have the most gratitude for things that don’t cost anything or require thousands: the trappings of an active, everyday lifestyle. Some of these include:
- My Health: My wife hasn’t had good health since she was 25, so as odd (or creepy) as it sounds, I feel grateful for my own health. I’m grateful I can do yard work on weekends, happily clean the kitchen most nights, and chase our kids around or take them to the pool on summer nights.
- My Positive Mindset: When the sun rises (or any amount of daylight), I get a jolt of energy. I feel anything is possible, and although my days are typically more normal than spectacular, every few weeks I have an amazing day. The anticipation of my next great day keeps me going.
- A Small To-Do List: It seems like everything in my house breaks at once. The fridge ice dispenser fails. Then a toilet. Then I see old shower caulk that’s falling off. About three months ago, an outside faucet pipe cracked and ruined some drywall. Really? As a suburban dad of five, half of my life is spent fixing problems. So when I have a week without any, it’s blissful. I really soak it up and my life re-balances so I’m ready for problems again.
- Good Times with My Wife and Kids: As sappy as it sounds, I really enjoy a great night where my family gets along, when one of our kids has a great game or meet (our kids play travel and high school sports), or an hour of especially good conversation at dinner or lounging around the house. There are so many days filled with bumps and bruises. When we finish a good night, it’s a memory I take with me.
In a world of expensive experiences, I value the everyday ones more. They’re easier to count on and I try to teach my kids to be grateful for simple moments that bring you happiness.
One sure way to feel more grateful is to serve people. When we look for opportunities to serve, we can find plenty of people whose life has dealt them a tough hand. A few weeks ago, I was eating a lemon cake I bought myself (I find cookies and muffins or cake on demand an irreplaceable source of satisfaction). I decided to take a third of the cake to an older gentleman who attends our church and doesn’t have very much. He was so grateful. As was I for the encounter when I left his house. Now I’m extra grateful I always have $20 in my pocket to satisfy my cravings because I know not everyone does.
A happy home life and $20 buys my happiness most weeks.
Links to try:
- To find service projects, try www.justserve.org.
- If you want good pumpkin chocolate-chip muffins, go to Kroger.