Sunday, February 28, 2010

Saying Yes To Something Better

You’ll all be really impressed to hear that I ironed clothes for all five males in this household BEFORE the weekend. In a shocking display of forethoughtedness (thanks, I made it up myself) I got it all done ahead of time. And we even arrived at church early enough for soft seats but there’s always a but, right? But…we don’t fit in those side pews. None of these kids wants to sit that close to each other. And we didn’t notice Josh had a huge pink stain on his shirt from a last minute swig of pomegranate Crystal Light. It’s probably a good thing I didn’t notice. I’m not entirely sure I would have brought him.

So anyway. Tonight our ward had a fireside about provident living. I came expecting to hear an older person talk about food storage and staying out of debt but it was a little different than that. Robert Perkes is only 32 and his talk was more about having gratitude. What’s that got to do with provident living? And what’s “provident living” anyway? A lot of you already know what it is but for some it’s not a familiar phrase. According to Elder Robert D. Hales

“ . . .joyfully living within our means, being content with what we have, avoiding excessive debt, and diligently saving and preparing for rainy-day emergencies. When we live providently, we can provide for ourselves and our families and also follow the Savior’s example to serve and bless others.”

General Conference April 2009

This is important stuff but how to do it joyfully? How to say no to that stuff you really want? By not saying no to it but saying yes to something entirely different. Brother Perkes used himself as an example. He’s recently lost a whole lot of weight after a friend expressed sincere concern. He happened to be playing basketball with a man of about the same age and weight when he collapsed and died from a massive heart attack. This phone call was the jolt Brother Perkes needed to change things but he said the trick wasn’t saying no to those chocolate-covered peanut clusters he loves. It was saying yes to seeing his boys graduate from high school. Saying yes to playing with his grandkids. The trick was taking the long view and really, that’s what provident living is all about. Being the ant, not the grasshopper.

He used another example he said he’d used at Standards Night a few years ago. He held up a delicious chocolate frosted cupcake and a $100 bill. He told the audience to close their eyes, choose which they’d prefer to have, and point in that direction. Of course everyone pointed to the $100 bill. Next he gave his two year old the choice. The two year old went straight for the chocolate cupcake because OBVIOUSLY. The point is that a two year old is not going to think five minutes into the future. A two year old goes for what feels good right now.

So where does the gratitude fit in? We’ve got to be grateful for what we actually have. If we can pull that off, there won’t be so much longing for more, bigger, and better. And the key? Not comparing. Brother Perkes mentioned a platitude similar to “I cried because I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet,” and that’s all wrong. We need to be straight-up grateful. Grateful for what we have because of what it is, not just because it’s more than someone else has.

And gratitude has some benefits that maybe some of us weren’t aware of. He mentioned a study (Counting Blessings Versus Burdens: An Experimental Investigation of Gratitude and Subjective Well-Being in Daily Life) that was conducted a few years ago. Three groups of people were asked to sit down each evening and write down 5 things. One group listed what they were grateful for that day, another listed hassles, and the final group listed neutral life events or social comparisons. What the researchers found was that during this time the group writing down things they were grateful for exercised more regularly, experienced fewer physical symptoms, and were more optimistic. They found they were more likely to have made progress toward personal goals, and there were higher reported levels of the positive states of alertness, enthusiasm, determination, attentiveness and energy. It’s a long boring study but the results are pretty incredible.

It made me think about what I wrote the other night. About the fact that God doesn’t need us to love Him. That it’s for our benefit. Brother Perkes talked about praying at night and how he used to wonder why God needed him to say thanks for everything. Why did He need the ego stroking? Well, clearly, he doesn’t need it. We’re taught to get on our knees and thank God for everything because we benefit. It makes us better, happier people. God thinks of everything, doesn’t He?

1 comment:

  1. “ . . .joyfully living within our means, being content with what we have, avoiding excessive debt, and diligently saving and preparing for rainy-day emergencies.”
    Excellent advice indeed! Something more Americans should learn.


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