Recently I’ve been thinking about happiness.
When conversations arise about the purpose of life (as they often do when you spend time with inquisitive teenagers), someone will usually declare that the ultimate purpose of life is to be happy.
But happiness is a fleeting emotion that comes and goes like the sunshine. When our purpose becomes the pursuit of a transient feeling, what does this mean for us during the 90% of our lives when we’re not experiencing that sky-high elation?
Contentment, however, is described as a deeper state of happiness and satisfaction that comes from having everything we need. Not everything we want, mind you, but everything we need.
We talked about this with KS3 and KS4 at Beaumont School last week. During morning assemblies, we thought about how companies create discontent in us by persuading us that we don’t have everything we need until we’ve bought their latest product. They confuse our ideas of what we want and what we need, and become very successful through our discontent.
So what’s the remedy? Gratitude. Appreciating what we have is one way to combat the discontent that comes from feeling like we don’t have enough. Our friends across the pond dedicate a whole public holiday to thankfulness, but just ending each day by jotting down three things we’re grateful for has been shown to have a positive impact on our mental health and wellbeing. Why not give it a go yourself?
Then we talked about a different kind of discontentment. It’s called ‘holy discontent’ and it doesn’t have anything to do with what you have. Instead it comes from knowing that your neighbour doesn’t have what they need. That there are families around you who aren’t content because they really don’t have enough. That there are things wrong in our world that need fixing.
And the remedy for holy discontent is action. As James puts it, what use is it to see someone who doesn’t have food or clothing, and to just give them good wishes?
So the students at Beaumont are currently taking action to remedy their holy discontent and address the need that’s right on our doorstep. They’re collecting as many items as they can for FEED, the food bank run by Vineyard Church which serves our local community.
Verulam School currently holds an impressive record for the most items collected in a two week period, so we will let you know whether Beaumont manages to top 7,181!
Whatever the grand total, a huge thanks to all the students who are getting involved and choosing to make a difference to the community of St Albans - you are at the top of my ‘Things to be Grateful For’ list this week.