"Mamma, can we buy a cantaloupe?"
My preschooler gazed longingly over the beautiful fruit display in the grocery store.
His innocent question turned a knife in me. A fruit we all enjoyed seemed the utmost luxury in light of our meager checkbook balance. I had carefully made the grocery list to fit the money we had until the end of the month. Cantaloupe wasn't part of the plan. But I did notice that two of the items I had intended to buy were on sale, and the savings happened to equal the cost of a cantaloupe.
Unhappily I sighed, "I guess we have enough."
"Oh, Mamma," cheered the little one, "enough is a lot!"
I don't remember the rest of the shopping trip, but his words still mean something special to me. "Enough is a lot." There is a humility in those words, a wholehearted gratitude that contrasted sharply with the bitterness and discouragement I was feeling.
I had prayed many times about our family finances, but my prayer had always started with complaining to God that enough wasn't enough. I was tired of figuring out what bills could be put off until next month. I hated the scrimping on necessities. I cringed with embarrassment every time I heard the friendly but firm voice from the bank calling to say we were again overdrawn. Little did I realize that my son's enthusiasm was to offer a turning point in the improvement of our family finances.
I realized that I had to do what Christian Science teaches: to pray from the standpoint of thanking God for His loving care, even if all we could perceive of the limitless evidences of that care seemed few and extremely modest.
Despite the restrictions of our grocery budget had we ever really been hungry? No. Did being careful about spending have to overshadow the happiness of being with my little boy, who relished every excursion? No. Did I have to feel resentful about not having the extras instead of being glad that my husband had what he needed for his work? No. I saw the importance of being grateful even for the warmth of our home instead of begrudging the utility bills.
At that time in my life, comparing our family with others just made me more afraid of being poor, and it didn't offer hope for those in dire straits that the chain of poverty could be broken. What really helped me was understanding where the good in man's life comes from.
A materialistic viewpoint says that our standard of living is determined by how much money we have. But Christian Science helped me to understand that my life, and the life of everyone, is truly established by God's great love for His children. There's actually one universal, impartial source of good, which is God. The spiritual reality of life, contradicting appearances, is that God fathers and mothers each of His children, providing them all with everything they need, as Christ Jesus proved so persuasively. Realizing this gave me peace. I saw that I was being supported by an infinitely higher power than my weekly income.
The adjustment in our finances was a gentle one, growing out of a deeper gratitude for the real substance of family life. In other situations a radical change in spending habits and/or willingness to work may be needed, but our family needed to break the habit of always undervaluing the good we were experiencing. We even started a nightly tradition: at the supper table we tell each other what we're grateful for that day.
The Bible teaches, "To be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace." Rom. 8:6. Chronic dissatisfaction is a kind of death. The remedy is a spiritual viewpoint—a realization that there's a fundamental Principle of good—God Himself— inspiring, feeding, and clothing His creation, and that we can prove something of this truth in our own lives.
Mrs. Eddy makes the point this way: "God gives you His spiritual ideas, and in turn, they give you daily supplies. Never ask for tomorrow: it is enough that divine Love is an ever-present help; and if you wait, never doubting, you will have all you need every moment." Miscellaneous Writings, p. 307.
We need to be diligent in guarding our thoughts from the materialistic point of view that would always judge the quality of our life by how easy it is to buy things. Gratitude enlarges our appreciation for the real goodness God makes available to everyone, today.