Not too long ago, I was having a deep conversation with a young man in his late twenties. I guess you could say that I was playing the role of the supposed grizzled, battle-wizened, old veteran of life’s challenges to his young man charging up the corporate ladder role. Let’s call him Ben (after Ben the Rat from the movie “Ben“) because he felt like he was caught in the Rat Race and being swept along by the surge of fellow rodents.
He is an up and coming star in a well known accounting firm. But he has discovered that the more he impressed his superiors, the more they wanted him to handle more portfolios. His working hours began to increase. He now works with increasing regularity to about 10 at night and I know it as a fact that he was working late even on New Year’s Eve. All the time, he is being told that he is paying his dues and he had to make sacrifices if he wished to go up the corporate ladder.
Like many young men, Ben is thinking of getting married and setting up a family but two things stand in his way. First, with his working hours, it is hard to have much of a social life let alone try to woo a young lady. Second, he is concerned about having enough financially to build his dream nest. It was on this matter that he was seeking my advice or insight from my experience. He felt insecure with his current financial situation. He felt inadequate. He was compelled to work harder to achieved higher positions within the company. Yet, he also recognised that his life outside of work already sucks. Like many of us, he wanted to know how to balance his life; the need for financial and job security on one hand and on the other hand, the need for more time for himself, his friends and his growing relationship with God.
It so happened that we both had an opportunity, not too long after, to visit a friend who had given up his job and home in the city and took with his family to live in a remote village to be a Christian missionary to a marginalised forest tribal people. We visited them in their new village home and what struck us was that the house they now lived in was very basic. The floors were bare cement, there was hardly any furniture, forget internet or wifi or cable TV. However, there was water and electricity and the house was large by comparison to the tiny apartments many big city people live in and the children had wonderful space to play in. There were other advantages of living in the remote area such as plenty of fresh fruits and fresh fish caught from relatively clean rivers, clean air and a more peaceful and slower pace of life.
Ben realised that our missionary friend was very happy and content in his rural home. That made him wonder if he could be happy there too. If he was willing to quit his job, he had more than enough already to live this simple country life right now. But if he wanted the grander house and all the bells and whistles of modern city living, than he would also have to cope with the soul-sapping working hours, the traffic jams, hurried pace, ulcers etc. If he could be content with the rural life, he could get out of the rat race right now. It’s something that Ben is still trying to work out in his life.
Contentment is quite illusive for many of us. The Apostle Paul wrote in Philippians 4:12; “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” I think it is an important secret to happiness in this life. To help us all realise just how much most of us (especially if you have a computer, access to internet and are reading this blog) already have and should be thankful for, please view the video below which seeks to show us our place of privilege in the world by picturing the world as a village comprising of 100 people and challenges us to help those less fortunate than ourselves.
This second video shows how a celebrity music artiste, Sarah McLaughlan, made a difference. Maybe we can all make a difference if we realise how rich we are and how much resources we waste – resources that could mean so much to others.