The scrawny, tow-head shoved the old mower along the pavement. It was hot. He was tired. The last lawn he had mowed had earned him three dollars. And a quarter. The quarter was a bonus from the nice old lady whose grass he had just whacked down to size. He was hot and tired, but content. The lawn mower was out of gas and he would be home in just a few moments to rest for awhile with a tall, cool glass of water.
|Photo: Mike Babiarz|
Suddenly, the front door of one of the houses he was passing swung open and a rough-looking man wearing a strong-man tee shirt stuck his head out. “Hey!” The boy stopped and waited to hear the life-changing words the man had to say. “You want to earn ten dollars?” Did he! Ten dollars was an unheard of sum–right up there with the money the rich kids made working at the country club. Did he want to earn ten dollars? “What do I have to do?” He wasn’t going to do anything illegal for it, but aside from that, if he could manage it, the money would be his. The answer came quickly and he was amazed. What? It couldn’t be this easy! “I just want you to mow my lawn, too.” Before the crazy man had the opportunity to change his mind (or his wife came home to discover what he was paying), the boy agreed and, with new energy, ran home for his gas can and a quick drink of water. An hour or two later, he was again on his way home, shoving the mower along the pavement, thinking about the future.
Did I tell you it would be life changing? It was. The lawn got mowed and the cash changed hands. I have no idea what the boy spent the money on. It was many years ago. The life changing part is that he never wanted to mow a three dollar lawn again. Not even if there was a twenty-five cent bonus to be thrown in after the job was completed. There were plenty of three dollar jobs around. He just didn’t want to work for that tiny amount anymore.
Many years after that event, the boy, now a man, sat in a financial counseling seminar beside a Lovely Lady. The moderator stood before them and announced that he was going to do the impossible with such a large group. He was going to tell each one of them how much money they needed. The men and women looked at him, half disbelieving, half expectantly. Could he really do that? As he paused, to let the tension build for a moment, each of them wondered, “How can he know what I need in my circumstance?” “He can’t possibly know what I owe–the bills coming due.” After a moment of these thoughts, he told them. “Every single one of you needs…A Little Bit More!”
He was right. By increments, our expectation of what was necessary to live had risen. From the boy needing three dollars and then ten, to the man needing one hundred dollars and then a thousand, the scale kept changing. Never satisfied, never moderating, the bar kept being raised. Like the infamous “rat race”, there was no end in sight, only more challenges and slightly higher rewards. The problem is that the life style kept changing right along with the slightly higher rewards. A pay check of one hundred dollars resulted in the need for one hundred ten; when it became three hundred dollars, three hundred thirty was what was desired. When the extra wasn’t forthcoming, means were found for coping. Loans, credit cards, extra jobs…they all were utilized for the Little Bit More to be achieved. It was never enough.
It is the human condition. We see. We want. We get, but aren’t satisfied. The cycle goes on and on in unending upward spirals. Never happy, our joy is always just out of reach. The examples cited above reference money and material affluence, but the principle is fairly consistent throughout the scope of our existence. We want more than we have, so we go after it. Never satiated, frequently willing to modify our morals to achieve our desires, we keep reaching and are destroyed. Physically, relationally, and spiritually. The apostle James told us that it is where conflict comes from. We covet and we fight. We desire and we kill. On and on, without end. Surely our Maker has more in mind for us than this.
Even though it was years ago, I will never forget the old Irish pastor stretched out over the pulpit in my church one evening. He leaned right over until it seemed as if he was part of the congregation, speaking to each one of us individually, and he asked the question, “Are you satisfied?” I can hear his Irish brogue like it was yesterday. The question rings in my head. You see, the Irishman had a different goal in mind. He wanted to know if I was satisfied with being who I was, with doing what I did, with staying where I was living. Not for myself, but for others. I have thought long and hard about the answer. A negative response requires that I change those things, that I work at reaching other, loftier goals than I have. A positive answer means that there is no longer any reason to hope for better, for higher, for more. It almost sounds though, as if he were asking me to keep on the way I was going, always wanting more than I could possibly have.
The beauty of this dilemma is that in spite of the seeming contradiction, my heart knows without question that I don’t need more money, more things, more of the empty promises. Just as clearly, my heart knows that I need to be more…do more…live more. That can only be accomplished by setting my sights on higher things and striking out to achieve them.
The answer to the Irishman’s question is a resounding NO! I am not satisfied! I must keep reaching, keep striving, keep working. There is much yet to be accomplished. I hope you realize that I’m inviting you to come along with me. I know I can’t do it alone and a little company along the road would sure be welcome.
How about it? We’ll see if we can still do just a Little Bit More…
“Reign ye, and live and love, and make the world Other.”
(from “Idylls of the King” by Alfred, Lord Tennyson~British Poet Laureate~1809-1892)
“Give me one pure and holy passion.
Give me one magnificent obsession…
Lead me on and I will run after You.”
(from “One Pure and Holy Passion” by Michael W Smith~American singer/songwriter)
© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2012. All Rights Reserved.