Returning to my little house here in Washington D.C. the other day, I saw an Amazon truck making a delivery.
On the back of the truck were the words “Warning: Contents may contain happiness.”
Respectfully Mr. Bezos, I could not disagree with something more. And here is why.
This rollicking sentiment seems to be something our culture believes very deeply today.
Another package, another delivery, another someTHING will finally make us happy. Another THING will be the answer, that missing link needed to finally feel satisfied, fulfilled and joyful. When we have it, and only then, we will be able to not feel so stressed, ragged and run down. When we have it, we will be happy and kind to others. We will feel purpose and meaning and hope and love…and…and…and...
We keep buying.
Package after package, and it doesn’t fill up the void.
Now, before you freak out and think “this girl is demanding I not order cheap school supplies from Amazon!” Please take a deep breath. Far from it. I happily received my back-to-school notebooks in a brown box without shame! However, I am asking you to stop with me and ask the question “what brings us true joy and happiness in life?”
We have the compiled wisdom of the ages behind us, and yet continually must learn the same lessons over and over again, one of them being: things cannot, and will not bring us peace, meaning or true happiness. Joy is not attainable through “stuff.” No matter how hard modern culture attempts to convince us of its value. Now, I am not one of those folks who demonizes pretty designer purchases or denies the ease of swiping a debit card knowing it will not be declined. In fact, and..sorry mom and dad for this honesty, but it is pertinent. I remember frequently as a kid worrying about money, food and how my family would be able to “make it” throughout different periods of time. This wasn’t “bad” and it did not kill me. It was in fact, the best time of my life and the origin of some of my most precious memories as a child. Not because my mom and dad had the ability to buy the new pretty clothes I desperately wanted to wear (my grandmother instead sewed by hand a beautiful and intricate blue princess dress that to this day, still is more precious than anything that could be bought). It was the best time of my life because of who I was surrounded by and the experiences we collected like precious gems.
Those times I didn’t really have shoes that fit, I had in their stead something money couldn’t buy: true friendship. The way my family moved around so much when I was young frequently meant I would develop friendships with other kids my age–only to say goodbye to them far too quickly. But the lasting and deep friendships developed in the dirt and summer sunshine of Ukraine extends to the present day. The family we lived with during that time opened their arms to my family and enfolded us with more love and acceptance than I could ever possibly describe. We were wild, and barefoot. Shouting with excitement, the kids would holler “GO TO ZE LAKEEE!” and off we would run, fleeting language barriers be damned. That same summer, while putting up hay by hand, a rainstorm descended on friends and family working side by side.
The older women grabbed the children, my sister and I included–and shoved us inside the haystacks and out of the sharp stinging raindrops. When my mother expressed her confusion, the women explained that they had lived good lives. They were okay if they got sick and died, but that the children had to be protected. We had futures to protect. We were cherished, and so very loved. Sitting in the round nest of hay they created for me and my little friends, I giggled and held dirty hands with my best friend. I felt joy. True, unabashed and unfiltered joy. Ukraine was a home for a while. It was a home in spirit and connection, through earth and dirt and kindness and contentment. The people we lived with did not have much, in fact, by western standards today you might say the majority of people we saw lived with very little–but they had something no billionaire could ever hold above them….joy. Never have I watched people more ready to laugh and smile, more trusting of Jesus and more thankful for hardship. Never have I witnessed such unwavering faith after persecution, and never had I felt more contentment. Stuff didn’t matter, things didn’t matter and looks damn sure didn’t matter. But the million and ten experiences I can still remember to this day in great detail–they matter more than anything that could be bought.
In the same vein, when I was a teenager and witnessed my sister in the early stages of a chronic illness that robbed her of her job, her way of life and her community–stuff didn’t matter. Although she stands strong and resilient today, she still fights an unseen enemy that many misunderstand. The path to this point however, was paved with uncertainty. Anything and everything would have been traded in a moment for the health of my best friend in that first decade of her disease. I watched her young body begin to quickly waste away as she became sicker and sicker, confused and at times tormented by an unseen enemy that refused to let her alone.
I remember asking my dad what we would do when the money ran out for her medicine, and knowing he meant it when he said he would find a way. I remember seeing my mother, the strongest human I know, cry quietly when she didn’t think I could see in the kitchen, making cups of tea for her eldest daughter. The one whose pain she would have taken upon herself in an instant if she could have. But she couldn’t, because the cure couldn’t be ordered in a box, and it still cannot.
The memories made with my big sissy, whether in excellent or poor health, extend today–tucked away in the back of my mind like polaroid shots. Loved and worn, to be brought out and fondly examined, laughed and cried over, and carefully tucked away again.
I am simply one, very loud and chatty blonde girl with a few years of some wildly varying life experiences. My opinions count for very little in the grand scheme of things–and yet, I still loudly deny the message written on the Amazon truck.
No offense Mr. Bezos, but nothing one of your trucks can deliver can create fulfillment, joy or peace within our hearts.
That inner joy is in the care and keeping of someone much bigger than ourselves.
Furthermore, that fulfillment is found not in brown boxes, but in things that have true meaning–the relationships with those around us, the love we show to those we care about, experiences that take your breath away, and hard work that rewards through real rest.
It is not found wrapped in plastic or delivered on a truck.
One day, you will not remember what new and improved gadget or piece of gear you bought. You will not remember yet another pair of shoes, but you might remember the day you called a friend to check-in, or asked a family member to spend some time together, or offered a hug to someone with a less than stellar support system. You might remember the days spent working hard, laughing with those alongside you until your sides hurt, and the sense of accomplishment felt as a long day wound to a close.
You might not remember the things, but you will remember the people, places and experiences.
Try and deliver THAT, Mr. Bezos.