Chasing Contentment by Erik Reymond, Free for CAPC Members
In Chasing Contentment, Erik Reymond identifies the lie that satisfaction and contentment come through consumption.
Every other Wednesday in The Kiddy Pool, Erin Newcomb confronts one of many issues that parents must deal with related to popular culture.
My elder daughter joined a local Brownie troop a few months ago; she got invited by some friends she met while playing for the area’s soccer league, and it’s been a great experience for her so far. This might be my daughter’s first experience with the Girl Scouts, but I was in the program for seven years as a kid, even earning my silver award. I think back on all the camping trips my mother endured for my sake, and it’s just one more thing I appreciate about her, and about the opportunities Girl Scouts has given my family for generations now.
We are seeing the web of our community extend and intersect and reveal to us the ways that we build relationships.Of course, given my background, I knew all about cookie time, and that’s where I had to call upon my mother’s sacrifices to rally me to my daughter’s cause. Although my mother’s ideal of camping is in a Hilton, she always excelled at selling cookies. She was friendly and outgoing and unafraid of approaching people. I, meanwhile, am far more comfortable in the forest. I don’t like asking people to buy things, even though it sorta feels like the cookies almost sell themselves. I wanted this to be my daughter’s project and my daughter’s goal, but she’s young enough to still need a lot of help from me and her dad, who would also prefer to be in the woods.
So when my daughter and I left the meeting about cookie sales and got into the car, and she told me her goal of selling one hundred boxes, I felt a little overwhelmed. “That’s a lot of cookies,” I hedged. “I hear they’re very good,” she replied. I didn’t feel like stomping on her dream, particularly when part of the point of selling is realistic goal setting. I just wanted to emphasize the realistic part. Her daddy and I talked to her about multiple goals, and we decided to start with a goal of fifty. She seemed satisfied, more agreeable than ambitious. But honestly, I think we all had that century goal in mind; the symbolism of the centennial for cookie sales was not lost on my daughter.
Selling for the first time during the hundredth year of cookie sales is pretty cool, a kind of standing on the shoulders of giants. It’s humbling to think of all the girls who’ve come before her, before me and my mom. And it’s that essence of community that we’ve tried to cultivate throughout the sale window. There’s asking politely and saying “thank you” and being respectful of others’ limits and refusals. There’s also approaching people and starting a conversation and making connections. We are seeing the web of our community extend and intersect and reveal to us the ways that we build relationships.
There’s the lifeguard at the local YMCA and the colleagues from our university, the uncles and grandparents and neighbors, the Sunday school teachers and friends. All of them have been there all along, but it took the cookie sales to help me see the depth and diversity of our community. In a climate where I keep hearing about isolated “bubbles” of influence, it’s been refreshing to see how much we can defy those divisions in our relationships. We might not agree on politics or religion or really much of anything, but everybody likes cookies, right?
Just yesterday my daughter exceeded the hundred-box mark—by one. I am proud of how she’s exerted herself to achieve her goal—her actual goal, and not the modified one my husband and I tried to foist on her. She’s exceeded our expectations, and no doubt not for the last time. I am proud of her. And as I look at the list of her customers, I feel hopeful about all the different kinds of people who reached out to support my kid. And, of course, to get some delicious cookies.
I won’t say that politics and religion (and the ways they intersect) don’t matter, because I don’t believe that’s true. I think they matter a lot precisely because when I profess myself to be a Christian, the way I treat others ought always to glorify Christ. It’s supposed to mean that cultivating the fruits of the Spirit and seeking the truth matter as some of the founding principles in my life and my family’s life. We are doing our best at a time when it feels like loving one’s neighbor is superseded by vulgarity, divisiveness, and lies. Cookies alone can’t change that, but by the grace of Christ, communities can. And it wouldn’t hurt to bring along some cookies too.
Image by Bandita via Flickr.
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