We’ve all heard the adage “Money can’t buy happiness.” I’m a teacher, and it’s kind of hard to explain that saying to some adolescents, particularly boys. Years ago I had a high school senior in my English class who said “As long as I’m living in a mansion and pushing a Lambo, I’ll be happy.” For the uninformed, I think that “Lambo” refers to a Lamborghini, and “pushing” means “driving,” unless they’re the kind of expensive car so cheap that they’re always breaking down. If so, I hope his mansion isn’t the Hank Williams kind—on a hill. Some of the kids get it, but oh those boys. Give them a sports car, a big house, fat stacks of cash, a trophy wife and boom—instant happiness.
I think most adults eventually learn that the adage is true, although sometimes when I see a guy older than I am driving a red Corvette with a license plate that says “SXYBIST,” I have to wonder. Unless you’re George Clooney, I don’t think the car and license plate will do much for you..
When I was young, and I have to admit it, through much of my adulthood I thought having X amount of money, whatever that was, would ensure my happiness. I’ve come to realize that it won’t. Yesterday I was with a group of people who were talking about the things that they have thought would make them happy. I realized that although I don’t have all of the “things” I thought would put me on that sacred plain, I feel happy anyway.
Why? It’s because, as I see it, Happiness is spiritual. If I have a good relationship with a power greater than myself, if I have faith that my Higher Power loves me, if I have friends and family whom I love and vice-versa, if I am being of service in the world, then I am happy.
However, I also realize that satisfaction is important. The difference is that satisfaction is situational. Last June I traveled to England with my wife and step-daughter. It was one of the most satisfying experiences of my life. I stood in the city of Stratford-Upon-Avon in Holy Trinity Church, in the place where William Shakespeare was baptized, worshiped, and is buried. I yearned to stay there long enough to look at every single detail for a minimum of ten seconds and to study many much longer than that. I didn’t have the time, but nonetheless I left there deeply satisfied. Being with my family in a place I’d always wanted to visit brought me that feeling.
There is a very fine line between being happy and being deeply satisfied. I can see one from the other easily, but they’re not the same for me. I can be happy sitting at my computer, talking with a group of like-minded friends, and spending time with my family. I can be happy if I don’t make a big trip, or have my own horse, or drive a brand-new car. Those things can bring me deep satisfaction, but it’s God, family, and friends that make me happy.