What Really Matters
Written by: | Thursday, November 11th, 2010
I now live in South Florida – a transplant from New England. Though I love the weather, living here has been a big change for me. Because so much of this area is very affluent, I have become more aware the extreme differences between those who have and those who do not. Here is what I mean:
I was stopped at a red light at a major intersection. On my left was an impressive dark blue Bentley. Lovely car. Quarter-of-million-dollar car. On my right was a beat-up old van, held together with duct tape. What a paradox I thought as I saw both stopped at the same light. “Those who have” on my left, and “those who do not have” on my right. What extremes. But wait, I have to add another detail to this event.
In the Bentley I could see the man and woman involved in a highly animated altercation. Finger pointing, mean gestures and facial expressions. They were obviously extremely angry with each other.
In the beat-up old van the windows were down; the couple was laughing and singing at the top of their lungs. Life was great.
As the light changed from red to green, the Bentley roared off and left us all in the dust, swerving as a result of the intense gesturing of the driver. The couple in the van looked over at me and gave a great thumbs-up gesture – I returned the gesture and we both gently moved on.
Society tells us that things matter. Success means having nice things, expensive things like a fancy car – affluence. But what I saw was that with all that wealth they were unhappy. And the beat-up old van carried two people so happy they were singing.
Now, who has the better life? Who knows what really matters? In this situation, who are “those that have”, and who are “those that don’t have?” Money buys things, not happiness.
One of the most extraordinary books in my library is Rachel Remen’s Kitchen Table Wisdom. She recounts story after story of the wisdom learned by those suffering through cancer, or those who love those suffering through cancer. Though there is so much wisdom in the book, the recurring theme is that when something traumatic happens to us or to people we love, we become aware of what really matters. It is never that we wish for more or better things. It is always that we want to be happy, have great relationships and be healthy.
I was reminded of a great lesson that day, stopped at the light – a lesson of what really matters. One side apparently had all the things wealth could buy, but were terribly unhappy. The other side had just enough, or maybe not even enough, but were intensely happy. To me, the couple in the van knew what really mattered. I appreciated the reminder.
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