Earlier this week I had the opportunity to deliver science projects to homebound third graders. It was a joy to watch their excitement. Sometimes, when I pull up to their house in the short school bus, they see me through a window and bound outside to greet me. Their little faces light up as if it were Christmas and I’m Santa driving my reindeerless sleigh. Of course, not all children receive their assignments with such enthusiasm. For a few, it’s as if I’m interrupting something of much more importance.
I see lots of things as I deliver schools supplies to children learning at home during these times of COVID-19. I feel like what stands out the most is the diversity among living conditions. I’ve delivered supplies to children living in the most elaborate mansions with breathtaking vistas as well as to children living in motel rooms and domiciles resembling a broken down, drafty and leaky shed. And as you can likely imagine, I make deliveries to children living in homes between these extremes. I find these inequalities alarming. What I also find alarming is that these living conditions of varying integrity, cleanliness, and monetary value do not define the nature of the people living within them.
Maybe I found myself alarmed because I still have a residual delusional belief that financial prosperity equates with happiness. Nevertheless, I’ve once again been offered conflicting evidence.
Having made these deliveries for a few months now, I can confidently say that I hand off school supplies more to parents than I do children. I am greeted in so many ways. I have been met with frowns and scowls and with joy and gratitude. I realize that we all experience good days and bad days, but what does not seem to matter is the physical quality of their accommodations. I have been met with irritation and aloofness in the most poverty-stricken residences and equally as much in the finest subdivisions in Corvallis. I’ve also been greeted with kindness, gratitude and heartfelt joy from people who appear to be dealt an impoverished hand as well as those who seem to be financially well off.
Joy, gratitude, kindness towards others, and what I call “genuine happiness,” are apparently available to both the deprived and privileged. So too are anger and discontent. What I learn in my mindfulness practice is being reinforced through my adventures in delivering school supplies – it doesn’t seem to matter so much what we have. What matters is how we live.
Living in a society where we are largely being defined by our “status,” we seem to lose sight of the fact that happiness and well-being are not dependent upon having things. Of course, there are some things that we need to survive; food, clothing, shelter, for instance. But beyond these necessities, just how much more do we need? I’m in no way insinuating that material goods are insignificant. They are useful and bring us much meaning and joy. My intention is to gently offer a reminder that our “things” are not as conducive to peace, joy, and happiness as we tend to believe.
What matters most is how we show up to whatever hand we’ve been dealt. Whether you’ve found yourself in a finely crafted home overlooking this beautiful world in which we all get to share or you live in a run-down, converted garage, be a kind person, help others, show up with integrity, and make your decisions based on your values. This is how we become happier people.
I know that there are caveats and context to consider, but essentially, if we can’t be happy in this moment with what we have, right here and right meow, then there is little outside of us that is going to bring about more joy, peace, happiness, and well-being. Developing these qualities really is an inside job.
And to all those who make me feel so welcome delivering school supplies, you warm my heart. Thank you 😊
You are loved by me, Unconditionally.
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