I don’t remember much of my childhood. I have faint memories. From these memories I know I was content. I have shared my experience growing up in El Salvador up to the age of 10 with my children and students. Yes, times are different, I get it, but children today have much much more than what I grew up and they are still not satisfied. Some complain of being bored, something I never said, and some are just openly ungrateful.
|All that is left of the home I grew up in El Salvador|
I grew up in a rural part of El Salvador, in a one room house made of wooden planks, dirt floor,with no running water, no bathroom (an outhouse) and no modern commodities. I didn’t wear fancy clothes or shoes, I wore many hand-me downs, sandals (and my feet got really dirty) and only got new clothes once a year during Christmas or New Year. I don’t remember owning any modern toys besides marbles, tops and trading cards. I got to see plastic soldiers that my brother brought from his home (he lived with grandma) but I never owned any. I loved exploring nature, herding cows, showering in the rivers, climbing mangoes trees, planting corn and going coffee reaping. I experienced getting lost while returning from the river, thank God my mom went to look for me and found me. I almost drowned in the river (I didn’t know how to swim) and broke my arm while exploring nature (thanks to my mom who ran with me to the city to the doctor) and ended with a cast. When I came to the United States I experienced a bit of modernity. Yet, I still did not have any modern toys or electronics. I never had my own room (and often competed for the restroom with my sisters and had to go outside instead), didn’t have new clothing or shoes except once a year (Payless shoes for $20 lasted a year or more), walked to school for more than 30 minutes every day (didn’t have a bicycle or a car- had a car till I married, it was my wife’s), my mom never went to any school event or meeting nor celebrated any birthdays and never had a dad.
Enough said. I was still content. I am content now. Complaints were not part of my vocabulary as far as what I had or didn’t have. Material things were not priority. We were alive and enjoyed life. My wife had a similar upbringing in Mexico. Both of us instilled contentment and gratefulness to our kids and for the most part, they have learned this (we are teaching this to our two new ones as well). I am blessed beyond what I really deserve (I don’t deserve anything).
So why are kids and adults so discontent if they have it all? Contentment is an attitude, a condition of the heart not a store of things, money and gadgets.
Jesus said, “Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” (Luke 12:15)
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