The most amazing thing happened today at work.
A family came into the store – mom, dad, four well behaved kids and one very big dog. The dad quickly decided that it would be better to wait outside because the dog’s tail began to swat merchandise off the tables as soon as it pranced through the front door… so that left Mom and the four kids perusing the store. Mom gathered the four kids in a group and told them the following:
“Now remember, each of you can choose one treat. Pick wisely.”
The four kids scattered and for almost an hour, they checked out all the shelves in the store. They were quiet, methodical and extremely observant, asking their mom about various items along the way. Mom wasn’t in a hurry, Dad was extremely patient outside the store with the dog and the kids were having a wonderful time exploring.
I was busy serving other customers but I was very aware of this family’s presence in the store. Finally, the kids made their choices and they walked towards their mom, who was looking at the dried flowers in the front window.
I heard mom say, “So, did you all pick something special to buy? Everybody put their treat on the counter so I can see what you chose.”
The four kids were visibly excited about their purchases – each of them had chosen to buy a fly-swatter.
Four kids – four fly swatters.
Now, you have to understand that this store has an awesome candy section, shelves full of toys and a well-stocked “back to school” corner but all four kids could hardly wait to go home and, as the oldest politely explained to me, “help Dad swat flies when it got dark.”
The mom quietly paid for the four fly swatters and then asked the kids to pose for a quick picture in the store. The kids were more than happy to oblige and they all stood in goofy poses as their mom took the picture. Dad peeked his head into the store and the kids rushed over to show him what treats they had picked.
It was almost surreal to watch all this unfold – I felt like I was watching an episode of “Little House on the Prairie” – these children were completely satisfied with a simple fly swatter and they were anticipating a fun evening of swatting flies with Dad. This was a far cry from so many of the kids who come into the store with their parents, throwing temper tantrums and manipulating their parents into buying all sorts of stuff they don’t need.
When I told my husband Chris the story, he reminded me of a time a few years back when we had gone to Tijuana, to construct starter homes with a wonderful ministry down there. We watched, one day, as a small child of about 4 or 5 years, just plopped down in the dirt with a couple of small cuttings from some 2 x 4s we had used, and then spent the next two hours happily playing and imagining, with such a huge smile on his face. It was like Christmas for this boy.
I sometimes think that the “Pursuit of Happiness” has lost its wheels and we have been so conditioned into thinking that more and better and flashier and sweeter and cooler and newer and faster will eventually satisfy. It just never does.
The happiest people I can think of were those four kids in the store today, and that child sitting in the dirt with some scraps of wood.
Simplicity at its best.