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Warmest regards: The gift of contentment

I’m telling a little background about my friend Kay so you can better appreciate her gift.

Kay and her adult son were like so many others when Hurricane Ira destroyed their home.

They were suddenly homeless. Like hundreds of others in our community they were scurrying to find a place to live. But so many homes were destroyed or unlivable, making it almost impossible to find somewhere to live.

Here’s something that didn’t make headlines in the hurricane coverage. Many families were forced to live in campers, with sleeping bags taking up what little floor space there was.

Believe it or not, a year later many families are still homeless.

People have been desperate to find somewhere to live.

By offering to pay a sizable rent Kay was able to convince one woman who lived out of town to rent out her home while the owner tried to decide if she wanted to sell it.

If so, Kay was willing to buy it. It had plenty of room and Kay loved the outdoor space.

Meanwhile her son was driving by a construction site with a new home in progress. Without a second thought he found the builder and on the spot agreed to buy the unfinished home.

It’s a smaller home without much outdoor space that Kay craves. While she would have been happier buying the home they were renting, she left the decision up to her son and said she was happy just to have her own place again.

When she moved into the smaller home, she did an amazing job making it look appealing. She put up a bird feeder in the small yard and turned it into her outdoor sanctuary.

“I’m content,” Kay tells me repeatedly.

That’s her gift. She is always content with her life and with what she has in life.

Kay amazes me because she doesn’t mourn the home and all her things that were destroyed by the hurricane. She just moves on, accepting what is with a heart filled with gratitude that she is capable of moving on.

Never once does she talk about all she lost. Instead she focuses on what she has.

I have known her for more than 20 years and I’ve witnessed her attitude throughout the bumpy road we call life. That included fighting major cancer.

I was amazed when despite being sick from her cancer treatments she talked about appreciating how good her life is.

A year ago her beloved husband died. I knew how much she was hurting with her loss. The more we love someone, the more our lives are entwined, the harder it is when we lose that person.

I was worried she would have a hard time recovering and was relieved when I saw Kay pick up the pieces and continue being thankful for life.

I don’t mean to make it sound easy. I’m sure it wasn’t.

But what she gains by refocusing on what she has is that she can better maintain the joy that is so much a part of her.

She often expresses joy for little things in life like her puppy and the beauty of nature.

I am so happy to be her friend and I readily admit I also benefit from her gift of contentment. She inspires me.

It’s important to note contentment is not the same as complacency.

Complacency is characterized by a lack of motivation and a sense of stagnation. Contentment is a sense of peace and fulfillment, even while working toward goals and aspirations.

Experts tell us the benefits of contentment are many, including peace of mind, happiness and stronger relationships.

Contentment allows us to enjoy the present moment rather than worrying about the future or dwelling in the past.

Plato noted the more we are content with little, the more satisfaction we find in life.

You may ask, who in the world is content with little? Aren’t we always striving for more?

Perhaps many of us are. I’ve noticed that it isn’t until retirement that some allow themselves to stop pushing for more and just enjoy the fruits of their past labor. Some say they wish they would have done that years ago.

I met a man who said he works two jobs to give his wife what she wanted. But he learned there was never a contentment level with her that would allow him to cut back more and just enjoy life.

On the other hand, there definitely are some who have discovered the quiet joy of contentment.

My niece Fran has no desire for more money or material things. Yet she is one of the most contented people I know. Her sense of gratitude for the wonders of life is refreshing.

Experts acknowledge it is far from easy to obtain contentment.

They suggest starting with something simple like appreciating nature. Being aware of our incredibly beautiful world is one step toward being content.

They tell us if we want to feel the essence of contentment it’s important to practice gratitude.

Go for a short nature walk and think of all the things you appreciate in life. If you appreciate things like someone by your side and a caring family it’s a start that can lead to contentment.

I have long believed we take too much in life for granted while we look for more.

How close are you to achieving contentment?

Contact Pattie Mihalik at newsgirl@comcast.net.