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The hardest state to find

November 25, 2014
Joyce Schenk , Westfield Republican

Contentment, according to Mr. Webster, is the state of being satisfied. But here in the land of plenty, where "multiple-choice" rules our lives, contentment may be the most elusive state of all.

Last week, the local news featured a story about the most expensive house for sale in our region. The 5000 square foot dwelling, situated on the water on five lush acres of land, was being offered at $8 million.

The industrialist, living there with his wife and two children, is no longer happy with the indoor pool, the tennis courts, the six bedrooms and eight baths. He is actively looking for a place more to his liking.

The coverage of the man's search reminded me of an article I read some time ago. It was written by a gentleman who was visiting this country from his native India.

For several months, he toured the nation, studying the lifestyles of the folks he met along the way. He concluded that most of those he spoke with were suffering a curiously American affliction. He called it the "Next Step Disease."

Everywhere he went, people were striving to take the next step in acquiring what they considered the good things of life.

One gent he talked with reported he had a two-year-old 24 inch television. But as the Super Bowl drew near, he started campaigning for a massive flat screen unit to hang on the living room wall. He was eager to take the "next step" in the world of mega-electronics.

The writer interviewed several families who had been living comfortably in modest three-bedroom homes. Each group complained of feeling too closed-in and planned to move up to four-bedroom places.

The article also included a leading businessman who had just received an impressive raise and well-deserved promotion in his company. But, rather than savoring the success, he immediately began focusing on the next rung on the corporate ladder and the perks that would come with it.

The writer noted that Americans justify their "next step" compulsion by telling themselves they deserve the things they long for.

For instance, those who need a better car for dependable transportation persuade themselves they deserve a more expensive model, reasoning they deserve to travel in style.

As I read the article, I had to agree with many of the writer's observations. But, with the passing of years, I've noticed that older folks tend to be much more content with what they have than those who are younger and still striving for the accessories of success.

Last week, I shared a glitzy Christmas catalog with my friend, Sally. As we oohed-and aahed our way through the glossy pages, we saw many things that caught our attention.

At the end of our session, I closed the catalog and asked Sally if she saw anything she loved enough to buy.

She said, "It's always fun to look at such beautiful creations, but I simply don't need any of them."

Sally, like you and me, is at that stage when her needs have changed, her desires have scaled back.

Many of us in the senior set have reached the point where we, at last, have enough possessions. Unlike the man who is trying to sell his mega-house for $8 million in order to get a larger one, we've come to that elusive, comfortable placed called the state of contentment.



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