The American Dream, that is. I thought about this Sunday night as I was coming in from the back yard, where I’d been grilling hot dogs and burgers by special request for my daughter’s birthday. As I brought the succulent morsels (if I do say so myself) in, and the smell hit me like the dictionary definition of delicious, I also saw my two preschool age kids riding their bikes on the back patio. The weather was even pleasant–it actually felt like Autumn (which typically lasts for about three weeks in Las Vegas).
That got me to stop and consider just how blessed my life is. I live in a comfortable home that suits my family’s needs, I have a beautiful wife who balances me out perfectly (as a best friend should), our lives are free from major health problems, my work as a teacher is stable, fulfilling, family schedule-friendly, and usually manages to get the bills paid (to ask for more these days is pushing your luck!).
Perhaps this awareness of my life’s happy condition is a result of my church’s General Conference this weekend where, among several other wonderfully inspiring talks, Elder L. Tom Perry of the Twelve Apostles spoke about living simply in these stressful times. Besides basing his remarks on Throreau’s Walden (which is one of my favorite books and, as an American Literature teacher, a reference which I very much appreciated!), he spoke with a tone of warm, experienced compassion that permeated the rest of this splendid conference, and genuinely refreshed my soul.
I was even more moved to feel that I’m living a blessed and charmed life, in spite of the usual trials, stresses, and challenges that we all face, this afternoon. I picked up my son from school after I got off work and, when we got home, almost immediately we both went outside with the two preschoolers. I alternated kicking a soccer ball and lobbing a football to the little kids while my older son sat in the shade doing some homework, reading a biography of Albert Einstein. When he finished a chapter, he came and played, too. The driveway still sparkled with the pastel craziness of random chalk drawings the kids had done all over it the day before.
The day was clear and the environment was ideal: I took notice of the American flag hanging in the garage, the “I love my wife” bumper sticker on my car, and even the pairs of jets that flew over our house every few minutes, much to the boys’ astonished delight. (Nellis Air Force Base has provided many interesting sights during my lifetime.) As neighbors would drive by every now and then, we’d all smile and wave, the kids shouting “Hi!” Shoot, if we’d had a hound dog and some apple pie handy, we could have been a Norman Rockwell painting.
As I soaked in the goodness of life, yes, the failures and conflicts of mortality rumbled around in my head–the exhaustion, the entire family not being together, fears about the future–but it just didn’t matter. Those things aren’t permanent. Several years ago I wrote in my journal about a major trial that I’d been obsessing over for weeks that, after much prayer and fasting, the Lord had delivered me from. The thing is, I didn’t write about what the challenge actually was, and now I’ve forgotten.
But playing catch with the kids on a quiet street in the middle of an October afternoon: that’s real. Nothing expensive or fancy was needed here; just calmly relishing the present for what it is. These will be the good old days.