October 12, 2011


One of the things that occupied my time during my recovery was watching HGTV.  For those not familiar with it, Home and Garden Television is made up mostly of decorating and home improvement shows and since I am in the process of redecorating in preparation of my daughter's wedding one year from today, the shows offer me many ideas. For the most part, the designs are way beyond my budget, but I still get some suggestions that I can possibly translate into a cheaper counterpart.  One of the shows that is on often is House Hunters.  In this show, couples looking for new home are shown three possibilities to choose from.  The camera follows them room through room as they comment on what they NEED in a home.  It often amazes me what these people think is absolutely necessary. If the kitchen hasn't been remodeled since 2005 and doesn't have granite countertops it's too dated.  The master bedroom has to be the size of a football field.  And my favorite, the bathroom has to be big enough to host a party with half the neighborhood.  

I remember when we went shopping for our first home.  We were 24 years old, married a year and a half, had no kids, and figured the house we found was the perfect starter home. It cost us less than what we  spent for our kids college tuition for a year and less than what some people pay for a luxury car these days. We ended up staying and we have lived here for thirty-three years.  Our house, by HGTV standards is tiny.  Our king size bed practically takes up the entire bedroom, there is one small closet and we don't have an "en suite" bath.  In fact, we only have one bathroom in the whole house that is smaller than a walk in closet.  I discovered some important things over the years. A family of five can live just fine with one bathroom, even as the kids became adults. Friends of mine had eight kids and only one bath and they survived. As far as a kitchen goes, what do granite counters actually do for you and bamboo flooring has to be washed the same as linoleum tiles. I discovered that having an 8x10 bedroom isn't going to destroy a kid's life, and sharing a room made my daughters close friends. With regard to property, a small yard can be just as nice as an acre or more and there is a lot less to mow. We have a needlepoint hanging in our kitchen that says "A small house is better than a large mortgage."  We own our home and even though it would be nice to have a bit more room (and storage), now that the kids are almost all moved out we are finding it is a good size "empty nest" home.  And the biggest advantage, there is less to clean.

I have a few friends and relatives who have built homes for Habitat for Humanity. This organization, founded in 1976, builds homes for the poor and has grown to an international organization. The homes are simple and small but have all the necessities for a family to live in comfortably. But there are so many people in the world who live in substandard housing, in shacks and shanteys with no electricity or running water.  And then there are those, even in our own communities who wander the streets homeless with all their possessions in a shopping cart they took from a supermarket parking lot.  Necessities?  I live in luxury compared to them.  It makes me truly reflect on my priorities in life.

I don't deny people the joy of having a large house with all the most up to date amenities.  I guess if you have the money why not have a great big home to enjoy. My own extended family and friends have beautiful homes that I enjoy visiting. The thing that bothers me is the idea that so many people think these luxuries in a home are necessary to find happiness and TV shows like this perpetuate this myth.

Jesus tells us in Matthews Gospel, "Foxes have lairs and birds have nests but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head (Mt 8:20).  What is important to finding happiness is not where we live, not how big our home is or if we have granite and stainless steel in our kitchens.  We find happiness by following Christ, caring for the poor, and sharing His message of Love, Hope and Mercy.

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