My four year old son comes casually and curiously wandering out of his room during quiet time lured, I’m sure, by the smell of popcorn in the microwave. His excursion is in direct violation of quiet time rules. He pokes his head around the corner before turning into the bathroom and calls out, “Save some popcorn for us!”
“Ok, ok, I’ll make some more when you guys are done,” I reply.
* * *
This boy, our middle child, is the one who struggles the most with needing to know whether there will be enough, particularly of the good things in life. Our bottoms barely connect with the chairs at the dinning room table before he’s asking about dessert. Then, as the bowl of pudding or a cookie slides in front of him he anxiously asks, as though measuring his approach, whether seconds will follow.
When he was about three he developed the habit of singing a little song any time he would get, for example, two cookies. With complete seriousness and without making eye-contact he would sing, almost to himself as if unaware of my listening,
“Two is not enough,
two is not really much,
two is not enough.”
Having had a daughter who simply accepted what she was given without question, I was completely at odds as to how I should respond to my son. I chose to let it be and eventually the singing stopped and gave way to one or another equally frustrating habits as is the way with growing children.
His song got me thinking, though, how often does my own heart sing a similar song? Too often the paycheck, the wardrobe, the length of the day, you name it, it’s NOT enough. I may not make a noise or move my lips, but there are days, weeks even, that I know for sure my heart’s singing the song of “not enough.” If you listen carefully you can actually hear the drum beat of this song echoing nearly everywhere in the world around us. It is, afterall, the song of the culture we live in, the song that drives consumerism to a fevered pitch.
This song comes at a cost, though. Whenever I sing it I implicitly reject the good things I do have in favor of some wildly imagined preferable alternative (in my son’s case, perhaps 100 cookies would do the trick?). I guess there isn’t much wrong with dreaming big, but if we’re not careful a continual habit of looking toward the horizon for bigger and better leaves us feeling more impoverished in the moment. And the truth remains, that unless we actively cultivate the habit of gratitude in the moment, with what we do have, its unlikely that we’ll be well-positioned to appreciate the bigger and better when or if it ever does come.
What strikes me, too, is how my son sings his song alone, almost to himself. If any of us are going to start singing a different song I imagine it’ll have to be a song with many parts, sung with friends who journey with us. All of us experience times when we really don’t have enough of what it is we need most, whether it be food and clothing or love and hope. It’s at times like this, times of true poverty, that we need others to carry the tune of another song for us and with us as we share a meal together, share stories and maybe even share our cookies.
So let’s make a pact, ok? I’ll listen carefully to my heart this week and you listen to yours too. Whenever you hear me start singing to the tune of “not enough,” you let me know, and I’ll do the same for you. Maybe we can start learning some new songs, like “thank you” and “wow” and “God is so good.”