At Walden Pond, Thoreau decided not to buy a rug for his little cabin. If he got a rug, he would have to get a rug beater; and if he got a rug beater, he would have to get a rug hook to hang it on. He could see where that might lead. Thoreau believed that the habit of acquiring more things eventually equated to more clutter and less joy.
Today, lots of sophisticated social studies confirm what Thoreau figured out on his own. Namely, that the happiest people tend to be those who have decided to choose experiences over things.
How About You?
This is your life, your one and only life, and you only have so much “life energy” to invest. Would you rather spend your allotted time and energy commuting to shopping sprees at a crowded mall? Or, would you rather invest it in experiencing the Great Barrier Reef with your best friend, or visiting the old country with your parents, or bicycling the Hiawatha Trail with your kids, or serving the less fortunate in your community? These questions always come roaring home to me during the holiday shopping craziness.
A Warm Holiday Tradition
When my daughter Rosie was a young girl, she and I had a simple Christmas tradition. Each year during the holidays we would purchase fifty or 100 pairs of warm socks, and Rosie would give a pair to each of the homeless people standing in the soup line in front of the downtown public library.
You have no idea how much joy a warm pair of socks can bring to someone whose feet are constantly wet and cold. But, for those people standing in a soup line at Christmas, I think the real joy resided not in the socks, but in the smiling face of the young girl who cared enough to personally bring them to them.
With all the commercial pressure coming at us at the holidays this year, it’s easy to get distracted from what’s significant in life. The voice on the television keeps telling us that the shiny things like a nicer car, or a bigger boat, or a more prestigious watch will bring happiness.
Don’t fall for it. Life is simple; keep it that way. As Richard Wagner reminds us: “Joy is not in things, it is in us.”