Happy New Year!
I love the Autumn season! Nature finds a way to cool itself down after a hot Central Texas summer.
For me, each October 1 marks the completion of another great year (I began serving Round Rock ISD as Superintendent of Schools on October 1, 2013). October brings out the first true signs of Fall: pumpkin patches, leaves changing, Halloween candy specials, and the hope that cool mornings are just around the corner. Though Thanksgiving is still almost two months away, these signs of Fall always focus my thoughts on attitudes of gratitude for the blessings in my life.
Maybe it’s human nature — it’s definitely part of American culture — but we all seem to have the urge to accumulate, whether it’s a concern of having enough of what we need or a desire to keep up with (or one-up) our neighbors. I’d like to think I’m immune to that, particularly as someone who grew up in modest surroundings, to say the least. But I know I’m not. In fact, not long ago my wife Amy and I were contemplating renting a storage unit for our “stuff” that was crowding out our garage. Think of that: two people, kids grown and out of the house, living in a nice-sized home, and we feel like we need even more space for all our stuff.
I grew up in an 800-square-foot house with four siblings and my mom and dad. The house never felt small to me. It did feel full. Full of love, full of laughter, full of joy. Those are things you don’t need a storage unit for because there can never be too much. Reflecting on that, Amy and I decided we don’t need that storage unit after all. My personal goal now is, if I find I don’t have room for the things I have, to give those things away. Giving makes me happy. I want to focus on the art of having enough. I came across this article that has helped me in that endeavor. The writer cites Austrian writer Stefan Zweig, who said:
“History relates no instance in which a conqueror has been surfeited with conquests.”
In other words, we’re hardly ever satisfied. But what if we could be? If our goal for life, for work, for relationships was to focus on what is in front of us now, at this moment, to give it our absolute best, our full attention, how much more full could our lives be in every way?
I’m a child of the 70’s and if you’ve been reading my messages for long, you probably already know that I love that era’s R&B and soul music. In 1974, just as I was still mastering English (listening to my little transistor radio helped with that) William DeVaughn released his song “Be Thankful For What You Got.” That song meant a lot to me growing up in San Angelo. I had friends on the other side of town where the houses were bigger and families went on vacation. But I soon learned that those things didn’t bring more happiness along with it. In fact, many of my friends experienced more joy and true happiness at 30 W. 18th Street (my little home) than in theirs. It’s never really about the more things you have, it’s more about the love you give to those near and dear.
So my challenge to you this week is to be thankful, celebrate “enough,” and practice contentment. Don’t seek a brighter tomorrow while missing out on the beautiful sunshine of today. Too bad I learned that lesson while my two sons had grown and moved away. Remember these words from the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu:
“When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.”
By the way, I’m thankful for what I have, how about you? It’s truly more than I’ll ever deserve (no storage unit for now)!
Cheers to our new year!
Thanks for reading. I’ll write again soon.
Steve Flores, Ph.D.
Superintendent of Schools