Keeping up with the Joneses doesn’t bring happiness

Categories: From the Director

We have much to be thankful for

As a 10-year-old, I would daydream about being rich some day. I was a “grass is always greener on the other side of the fence” kind of guy. I envied what others had, and felt sorry for myself for what I felt I lacked.

Sure, I wore patched jeans, hand-me-down shirts and shoes sized for me to “grow into.” But, in truth, most of the other kids in our neighborhood wore the same. Our mothers cut our hair, and most of them took the easy way out with a “buzz cut.” I’d beg my mom to let my hair grow longer, and she would reply, “OK,” while simultaneously circumnavigating my skull with a hot clipper set at an eighth-inch.

From time to time, my friends and I would play “genie.” One of us would ask, “If you found a lamp with a genie in it, and the genie gave you three wishes, what would you ask for?” My first response was always, “A million dollars.” My second and third wishes were usually for “a mansion” and “a beautiful wife.”

Whenever I was invited into a neighbor’s home, I would inventory their treasures and compare them against my wants and needs. For example, our closest neighbor always had Wonder Bread on the dinner table and often had Oreos for dessert. Wonder Bread was advertised on the “Howdy Doody Show” and promised to “build strong bodies 12 ways.”

I asked Mom why we couldn’t have Wonder Bread once in a while. Mom baked bread every week — white, rye or cracked wheat. In fact, throughout her life, Mom never had “store-bought” bread in her home, or any other “store-bought” baked goods. We had to cut our own slices, and it was never uniform like Wonder Bread. She told me not to ask for it any more.

Desires transformed

Over the years, I found many more instances where I was shortchanged. One of our neighbors would regularly put out a bowl of potato chips. Another had bottles of soda pop available for their kids whenever they wanted one. I was aghast. Neither of these was on hand in our home. The neighbors all had color TV years before my parents. I couldn’t understand why Mom and Dad were stalling. Mom simply said, “The old TV still works.”

My desire for riches never waned, but it was certainly transformed. The beautiful wife that I wished for as an afterthought came into my life in 1977. I had never even given thought to beautiful children or grandchildren, but they turned out to be part of the deal as well.

Our mansion is a red brick rambler on the Mississippi River. I know it is just an ordinary house, but it features a most extraordinary view of God’s creation. I’ve been told it’s a “million dollar view.” I will forever miss Mom’s delicious breads and cinnamon rolls.

Good stewards, let us pour gratitude into our prayers this week, for the seeds of friends and family that God has sown into our lives, for the glimpses of paradise sprinkled into God’s creation and for the banquet set for us by God’s only Son.

Curt Hanson, Director of Stewardship and Development, Diocese of Saint Cloud