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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Being satisfied

I recently had the opportunity to reconnect with a friend I hadn't seen in a few years and meet her husband. She kept going on and on about her new home and how wonderful it was. I was excited for her, to see that after years of struggle, she was finally living her dream. I couldn't wait to see this amazing home that she couldn't stop talking about. She drove me through some beautiful country, past enormous beautiful homes, then turned down a little lane into...

A trailer park.

We pulled up in front of an old dilapidated trailer. When I described it to a friend, she made the comment to the extent of, "so basically we're talking aqua appliances and pink toilets." Um, no. Think older.

Her amazing house is a single wide trailer, two bedrooms, one bathroom, and you can see a lot of places where frankly, it's falling apart. She escorted me into the living room, cleared off some papers from a chair that she proudly told me they pulled out of a dumpster, and they invited me to sit. After all, it was the best seat in the house.

I'll be honest. At first, I was a bit disgusted. The place was rundown and dirty. She made a comment about how I don't keep a very clean house, so she didn't think I'd mind that she hadn't picked things up, but let me just say that I have never allowed my home to get that dirty. When I left, I was picking dirt and fuzz and hair off my clothes and I honestly have no idea where it came from.

But what do you say? She was so happy, so proud, and it hit me. I'm a big meanie. Who am I to judge how she lives? It may not be the home I'd want for myself, but she loves it. Later, we were talking and her husband made the comment that someday they'd like a real house with a real yard. But for now, they own this house. It's completely paid off. They pay utilities, HOA for the trailer park, and get this... $50 a year in property taxes. As he put it, they have everything they need. Why, then, would they go into debt for something else?

I left their home feeling almost envious. They didn't need a big house, nice things, or any of the other "stuff" society tells us is important. They were happy enough without. With the current financial crisis, I can't help but think that this couple is the wisest couple I know. They haven't bought into the lie of bigger being better. They haven't bought into the lie of buy now, pay later. They accept what they have with utter gratitude.

Last night, I chatted with a friend who shared her thoughts on the financial crisis. She and I prepare taxes for folks who live in McMansions, making less money than we do. I've griped in past blogs about people who make less money than we do, who drive fancy cars, wear nice clothes, and have all this "stuff". They also have a lot more debt. As I told my friend, I'm actually surprised the crisis didn't happen sooner, and that it's not a lot worse. But maybe we haven't seen the worst yet.

I know, pessimistic thinking. But honestly, what did we expect? At some point, the buy now, pay later philosophy demands to get paid.

My friend Kay has a great post talking about how we got into this mess. She also links to a great article. So check it out.

I've had to take a long, hard look lately at what it means to be satisfied. We just bought a bigger house last summer (for the record, our mortgage is almost the same as it was with the old house... that was intentional). But honestly, as much as I gripe about not having enough space, we do not need five bedrooms and four bathrooms. Really, given that much of the world lives with barely a roof over their head, I could probably make do with a lot less.

The reality is, we've replaced God with stuff. And because stuff is not God, we're never going to be satisfied as long as our goals and dreams revolve around stuff. As much I think some sort of bailout needs to happen for the sake of the country, we need to get real and realize that the only thing that's going to save us is to jump off this roller coaster and stop spending money we don't have on stuff we don't need.


Eaton Bennett aka Berenice Albrecht said...

My family and I live in a small home because we didn't want a big mortgage...it has worked for us for eight years. We now have no mortgage and I just can't imagine spending so much time and effort cleaning a huge house. I count my blessings that I haven't given over my life to maintaining a gilded cage. :)

Robbie Iobst said...

Amen, Danica! Wealth is so relative, isn't it? Paul knew how to live with a lot or little. He knew priority number one was not what he lived with but who he lived for. I needed to read this today, Danica. So many times I am envious of people who have more than I. But with Christ, we are rich indeed! By the way, all of us at one time or another are "big meanies!" :0) Recognizing it is a sign of character.

Megan DiMaria said...

Well said, Danica. Thanks.

A prisoner of hope,

siteseer said...

Love the post. I have a scroll going across my computer that says "The secret of contentment is knowing how to enjoy what you have.". I think that says it all, as long as we want what we don't really need we will not be happy.

My 'job' as a tax collector puts me in contact with all sorts of people. When the McMansion people complain about their taxes I just tell them that it is a choice, if they want lower taxes they too can live in a trailer. That shuts them up every time.

I love my 'small' home and enjoy taking care of it and keeping it 'clean'. That a relative term isn't it?

Anonymous said...

Great list, i did 13 books this week also so had to come check out yours.