I was recently introduced to the song Swing Life Away by Rise Against. The words that really jumped out at me are as follows:
We live on front porches and swing life away.
We get by just fine here on minimum wage.
Maybe nothing too profound. Except that no one seems to get it.
“We live on front porches and swing life away.” I have this amazing memory from my childhood. This memory is of sitting on my friend Nancy’s porch swing, drinking lemonade, and enjoying conversation with this sweet older lady. I have plenty of other memories of spending time swinging on her porch swing, enjoying the breeze on sunny days. Simple. But why does that memory stay when so many other childhood memories are gone? It was special to me as a child, and still is.
So living the simple life may mean having a child-like excitement about the things in life. But the problem is, I think even kids today are missing that. Working at a children’s party facility opened my eyes to a whole world of materialism that I never would have imagined. To say it’s wrong to have a fun birthday party jumping on inflatables with friends is not my goal, nor do I believe that. (I’ve had my fair share of parties there, and I enjoy the environment 😉 ) But coordinating the parties for two-year olds with 30+ gift-bearing friends is an experience. As the mom carries out a load of battery run gadgets, video games, and bicycles she often calls out, “Thanks! We’ll be back next year!” I always wonder what will be left to give that child on his third birthday. A cell phone? What about his 10th birthday? A car?
It also makes me wonder if the two-year old has any concept of the fact that a fun day can consist of sitting in a sand box with a cardboard box and a stick for hours on end. Or sitting on a porch swing drinking lemonade with an older lady.
A few months ago my friend Ray, an older gentleman in my church, was telling me about his birthdays as a child. He described walking down the stairs on the big day, his excitement growing with each step. The source of this excitement? When he got downstairs into the kitchen, his mom would give him a kiss, smile and say, “Happy Birthday. I love you!”. And maybe, if it was a good year, there would be a cake in the oven.
I compare this to the chaotic party room filled with jealous, crying two-year olds and the birthday boy, covered in a pile of expensive toys, who can barely open another gift because of the overwhelming environment. I compare a kiss on the cheek and a happy birthday wish from a loving mom to a party that eventually adds up to several hundred dollars EVERY. SINGLE. YEAR. And it makes me wonder what is wrong with us. We’ve forgotten the joy of simplicity. Not only have we forgotten it, we have robbed our children of it.
“We get by just fine here on minimum wage.” Contentment is not often the forte of the American people seeking the “American Dream”, and beyond. But nothing is as satisfying as being content in “whatsoever state you are in”. (Philippians 4:11) Maybe kids require a more extravagant birthday party every year because their parents require a more extravagant lifestyle every year. Maybe kids are discontent with their toys because parents are discontent with THEIR toys (a new car here, a new house there). Kids have been taught that happiness can be bought. And they’ve been taught that by example. In case you didn’t know, happiness can’t be bought. And that’s why materialism never ends. We think, “Oh if I could just have or do THAT, I’d be happy.” And once we have or have done THAT there is always another THAT to have or do. And so true happiness always barely escapes us because we throw out the contentment that happiness requires. Children have been blessed with a natural appreciation for the simple things. Let’s learn from that instead of training them out of it.
My hope for my friends and family is that you would all love living simply and find happiness in the everyday things. I hope the kids in my life know what to do when they’re handed a cardboard box. I hope they have experienced a world made out of rocks. I hope they know that a Weeping Willow tree can provide days of happiness and entertainment and that a sandbox is where the real fun happens. I hope they realize that a kiss and “Happy Birthday. I love you!” from Mom is worth excitement in every step to get to it. And I hope they know that to swing life, or the afternoon, away on a porch swing with a glass of lemonade is happiness.
“… Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands…” 1 Thessalonians 4:11
Originally published on Miranda’s blog http://mirandarat.blogspot.com/. Used by permission of the author.