As my flight began its final approach into John Wayne Airport, the financial concerns that eluded me while visiting family began to creep back into my thoughts. I was determined not to let anxiety ruin the four short days I had just enjoyed on the Bayou Teche with my godparents. The calm cadence of their lives, the warmth of their southern hospitality and the abundance of their resources had left an impression on my quick paced, hurried heart. They didn’t seem to have much money, but they certainly were rich in a way unfamiliar to me.
They have 20 or so chickens that give them fresh eggs each morning. They tend two large gardens that provide them more than their “5 essential servings of fruits and vegetables per day”. They drove me through fields and fields of healthy hay crops that yield them hundreds of bales every year; and the grand finale, a visit to the “other women” in my godfather’s life, his 30 head of cattle. He checks on them daily to repair fences, fill up water barrels and occasionally moving them to greener pastures – literally.
All through our travels he waved to neighbors and introduced me to long-time friends. Saturday I was treated to a delightful Cajun supper with many of these folk down at the bayou’s edge. We laughed all night, entertained by the stories of his war buddies and dancing a bit to the zydeco music blaring from an old radio with a wire coat-hanger antenna.
Each day my godparents got up early, finishing their chores in the cool of the morning. When I awoke the coffee was waiting for me and so were they, sitting in tandem rocking chairs in the front room. Neither one in hurry, they chatted about a sick neighbor or the new garden around the church grounds. Gentle, kind words shared. Their home is humble, yet sufficient. I was treated to a walking tour of the walls; covered with framed memories of family milestones, veteran reunions, and retirement parties.
I saw the exchange of money only once during my visit, at a roadside café. A special delicacy, something they didn’t have at home; fried alligator. Aside from that lunch, everything we did or ate came from their abundance of resources. I understood they didn’t have a lot of money and I also understood they were very content. Two things that are mutually exclusive in the hurried chaos of southern California where money equals happiness.
Now, I don’t think that the secret to finding happiness is building a chicken coup or growing your own vegetables. No, I think the answer is deeper – inside. My godparents are content not because they are rich in money, but they are rich in perspective. They have what they need, they enjoy and care for those in their life and they know that the key to happiness is tied to something more important than money.
A change in perspective – is it that simple? Perhaps it is.