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January 14, 2008
What REALLY Matters
I spent my entire day Saturday splitting time between the couch and the recliner. At the same time, my wife and oldest son were cruising the runs at a local ski hill. Sure, I could have felt sorry for myself, cursing the injury I sustained a few weeks ago that prevented me from skiing with them. Fortunately, I was too busy playing board games with my younger two children to fuss about all the fun I COULD have had on the slopes.

We all have our hills and valleys in life. The height and depth of each depends entirely on us. The nightly news tells us how the economy is tanking and that a recession is inevitable. TV ads try to convince us that happiness is a red-bowed Lexus in the driveway and a non-fat sugar-free double caramel latte in the cupholder. Politicians tell us how they will change everything for the better, but never do. All these things dominate the airwaves, but there are no silver linings on these clouds.

A few weeks ago we attended church with my parents in the town I grew up in. The preacher asked the children in attendance to come to the front and gave them each $2. Their task was to spend that $2 on someone in need. They could buy a couple cans of food and donate it to the local food bank, or maybe give it to one of the bell-ringers for the Salvation Army.

My three kids pooled their money and bought some flannel fabric. With the help of my wife, they made a blanket and donated it to an organization that helps unwed mothers and their newborns. For $6 and a little elbow grease, my kids made life better for someone less fortunate.

As I sat on my couch Saturday, it occurred to me that happiness is an individual decision. Left to outside influences, we would all surely be constantly miserable. That's what makes headlines, after all.

As you watch your stock portfolio wildly fluctuate week to week, or home prices in your area drop 5% every month, look for the things that promise happiness regardless of dollars and cents: A loving spouse, a devoted child or grandchild, your health, the roof over your head, or the feeling you get when you're able to help someone else. Then, and only then, can we truly appreciate what REALLY matters.


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