Can these three terms really go together? Saturday night Joanne and I went to a party for a local non-profit organization. As part of their work some of the volunteers often take food to the homeless here in Nashville. One of the gentlemen they see there just looked the part of a Santa Claus. While he has never dressed up or grown a beard to look like Santa, his daily presentation made him a natural choice. He resisted when first asked but then relented under the charms of the ladies serving him food.
I took advantage of a lull in Santa’s handing out gifts to ask how he ended up “homeless.” His story surprised me. I typically expect that someone living on the streets has exhausted every possibility for having a roof over their head, and in desperation and hopelessness resorted to the misery of sleeping under bridges. Not so with our Santa. He is a former truck driver who gets a monthly retirement check. He does a little work now and then at a restaurant and in exchange they allow him to use that as his mailing address. His wife died several years ago and he just decided to not have rent and utility payments each month. He’s bright, articulate and does not use drugs or alcohol. He spends most of his days at the library reading history books. Yes, he is sleeping in an abandoned building (technically trespassing) but is quite content as he describes it, “living simply.”
In recent weeks I have observed that circumstances do not seem to dictate a person’s happiness or sense of well-being. Many with fancy cars, homes and bank accounts are miserable and discouraged right here during the holiday season. And there are many, like our Santa here, who has none of those luxuries yet chooses to be happy nonetheless. Most of us are probably somewhere in between those two extremes, with many options available to us.
I’m grateful for the time with Santa – and the reminder that my contentment in life is not contingent on my circumstances. I may not chose “homeless” but I sure am choosing health and happiness. I trust you are as well.