One of those stories which go round from time to time tells a touching story of a very elderly man saying goodbye to his daughter at an airport. They both accept that the next time she will come all the way home again will be for his funeral, and as they depart they wish each other “just enough”. A passer-by overheard this and asked why they used those words. The old man replied that they were the traditional greeting in his family and had been for generations. “When we say ‘I wish you enough,’” he replied, “we are wanting the other person to have a life filled with just enough good things to sustain them.” Then, turning towards the passer-by, the old man shared these words as if he were reciting them from memory:
- I wish you enough sun to keep your attitude bright no matter how grey the day may appear.
- I wish you enough rain to appreciate the sun even more.
- I wish you enough happiness to keep your spirit alive and everlasting.
- I wish you enough pain so that even the smallest of joys in life may appear bigger.
- I wish you enough gain to satisfy your wanting.
- I wish you enough loss to appreciate all you possess.
- And I wish you enough hellos to get you through the final goodbye.
It’s a bit corny, I know, like all such stories that do the rounds on social media, it may not even be true, but it has a point. We don’t need to wish each other lavish riches and great fame; all we need wish them is “just enough”.
Conversely, when you come to thank God for all His gifts, you can thank him that he has given you “just enough”. Because, often, at the back of your mind is that nagging wish that God could have given you more. He could have made you richer, prettier, smarter. You may wish you had a house as splendid as the Jones’ next door. You know that you don’t really need all of these things; all you need is “just enough”. In fact, if God had given you more than He has, it might have done you more harm than good, turning you into a spoilt brat, a troubled tycoon, or that rich fool that Jesus describes so accurately in the parable we heard earlier.
Thanking God for the harvest is a tradition which reaches back to the beginning of the agricultural society. But in those days nature was totally unpredictable, and they had no refrigeration to preserve the produce of the good harvests to eat in the leaner times. When the harvest was in, the first priority was to provide seed for sowing the next year, and food for the whole family until the next harvest-time. That was “just enough” to get by on. Any surplus was sold or traded in the markets to provide money or materials for house repairs, furniture, education, clothing and so on. These things, though not luxuries, were items you had to forego in the slim years. We should thank God that our life today is better than theirs was then.
Having said that, there are plenty of people around the world today who live on the same knife-edge of poverty. Even in this country, there are those who slip through the net of the welfare state, whose only resource in emergencies is a foodbank, if they’re lucky, or a loan shark, if they’re not, dragging them deeper into the spiral of poverty. For these we should pray that God will bring their income up until it is “just enough”, at least, and ask ourselves if there is any way we could share our surplus with them in a way that would encourage them, rather than demoralise them, maybe by donating to the local foodbank. We have come to believe that essential to a full life are all the latest electronic gadgets, luxury food and clothes, and a shop-until-you-drop mentality, and this makes us greedy, and does us more spiritual harm than their poverty does to those who have less than enough. We must learn to be satisfied with the blessings of God’s house.