As a nice Jewish girl, I’ve encountered this bit of wisdom from Pirkei Avot (popular Jewish text known as “Ethics of our Fathers”) time and time again: Aizehu Ashir Hasameach B’Chelko. Translated: Who is rich? He who is happy with his lot. I understood the words, but the deeper meaning never really sunk in. Then a few weeks ago I had an epiphany, with the help of a kitchen renovation and Shel Silverstein.
Now I’d been feeling a little down lately, thinking about the things that we can’t afford yet, and eating my heart out about updates on Facebook: this one got a new car, that one a new house, etc. “Why are we the only ones not living the dream?” I wondered with no small amount of angst and marital haranguing.
Serendipitously, my 5-year-old has been on a Shel Silverstein kick, and we dwelled on one particular poem for a bit, “Lester.” Lester was given a magic wish, which he used to wish for two more wishes, which he used to wish for three more wishes, and so on. The poem ends:
And then one Tuesday night they found him
Dead–with his wishes piled around him.
And they counted the lot and found that not
A single one was missing.
All shiny and new–here, take a few
And think of Lester as you do.
In a world of apples and kisses and shoes
He wasted his wishes on wishing.
The next day I was talking with a friend at work. She’s got a lot of the things I long for: a big suburban house with a dishwasher and washer/dryer, a dog, a housekeeper, and so on. But when I walked into her office she was looking at pictures of her friend’s kitchen renovation on Facebook. “I’ve got a serious case of the covets,” she said.
That’s when it hit me: it truly never ends. No matter how much we have, we always want more. Makes you realize why, “Thou shalt not covet,” is one of the ten commandments–coveting what your neighbor has is both completely human and completely corrosive to our humanity.
I’m convinced that if I give myself over to the covets, I’ll never find peace.
Don’t get me wrong. Of course I still want things. But I realize that with new things comes new problems (flooded basement anyone?). And new things to want. Yes, money makes life it a little bit easier, but it doesn’t make you happier. True happiness comes from appreciating the many blessings I have: my family, my health, my job, my faith. And from knowing that I’m modeling this important lesson for my children.
In a world of apples and kisses and shoes, I don’t want any of us to waste our wishes on wishing.