by Annette Bridges. © 2007. All rights reserved.
The American dream tells citizens and immigrants it’s possible to be whatever you imagine, to achieve whatever you aspire to and to attain whatever you strive for. Yes, anything is possible in the land of freedom and opportunity.
And the American dream defines the way success is gained — through hard work, determination, self-sacrifice and perseverance.
Still for many, the “pot of gold” remains at the end of the rainbow — just out of reach. Why? Perhaps because too many think the American dream measures success by material wealth.
What if the American dream is not about a destination defined by fame and fortune? But rather the American dream is about the journey — a journey of vision and hope that encourages creative initiative and inspires goal-making and the search for one’s life purpose. And success is actually defined by a job well done and the good effort made.
Could it be that a wrong definition of the American dream has led to destructive obsessions as well as a lack of satisfaction and happiness with one’s life?
Ask yourself — Do I ever agree with the old adage, “The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence?” If you answered yes, keep reading.
It seems for too many the American dream has become merely the quest for money. We never think we have enough. But, how much is enough? Our obsession with money has become the impossible-never-to-be-reached dream telling us we need more, we don’t have enough, we may never have enough, and we may run out. Consequently, our needs, fears and desires are constantly changing and increasing.
No wonder we’re stressed out. According to a recent survey conducted by the American Psychological Association, money was reported as the number one source of stress for 73 percent of Americans.
Most of us have probably heard the often misquoted Biblical statement of the apostle Paul, “For the love of money is the root of all evil.” I say often misquoted because I’ve seen it written many times as — “money is the root of all evil.” But I don’t think money in and of itself is the problem. Paul’s words indicate it’s more about our feelings about money that can lead to problems.
And I suspect it is our viewpoint about money that impacts how we answer the question — How much is enough?
My husband and I have been married over 25 years now. I remember in our newlywed years when we set a monetary goal we hoped to reach before our retirement. My hubby has always dreamed of retiring as early in life as possible.
The only problem with his plan was that as soon as we reached our savings goal, he increased the goal. We didn’t have enough eggs in our basket. Or so he said. In fact, I’ve lost count of how many times our goal has been increased through the years.
I’m not so sure that economy and inflation have been the main reasons to continually increase our nest egg. Lately, I’ve told my husband that I don’t think we will ever have “enough.” Or at least, I’m not sure he will ever think so.
Paul had it right. I think that a distorted perception of money is the root of many a problem and stress — and the cause of misinterpretations of the American dream. And for my husband and me, this perception has translated into worries about not having “enough” money for the rest of our lives. Not to be pessimistic, but who knows how long the rest of our lives will be?
Well, I don’t want to worry about money anymore. I think we’ve given so much attention to our future that we’ve kept ourselves from living more of life today.
To change this unsatisfying pattern, perhaps we begin by recognizing what we have. Being grateful for what we have. Enjoying what we have. And I’m not just talking about money.
We need to start focusing more on the “now” moments of our life. Stop looking to the future to provide the answers, the opportunities, the fulfilling of dreams. Improve today’s moments, making the most of them. Consider present possibilities — right now. No longer put off for tomorrow what could be done today, said today or experienced today.
I think these words from Paul are good advice for all areas of our lives: “Behold, now is the accepted time.”
Christ Jesus encouraged us to relax about our needs, to not worry so much. He said, “Don’t be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving.” And he added, “Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow.” He promised us that God would help us meet our daily needs.
I’m reminded of the travels of the children of Israel those forty years in the wilderness. Moses had promised bread would be provided each morning if they would trust in the Lord’s providing. He instructed them to pick up only what they needed each day — and not to store any away. And sure enough, those who were uncertain about trusting in the Lord for their daily supply did try to save some bread. But that bread spoiled before the next day.
This story is teaching me to trust more in God in all times and ways, day to day. It assures me that if I trust in God’s help to meet my needs each day, there will be no cause to fear an uncertain tomorrow. I can rest securely and confidently in my trust in God to supply, direct and guide my needs.
I think the American dream becomes the impossible dream only when we define success monetarily or materially. I’ve concluded that having enough is not about having everything we want. Perhaps we have enough as we appreciate and value what we have.