As the sun comes up in the east, its light rising over the roofs of the houses and the trees, it bounces off the windows of the houses on the hill to the west of my window where I sit at my desk in the mornings.
Do you remember the fable of the little farm boy who worked hard alongside his father all day long? He labored all day, working the fields, waiting eagerly for the moment at the end of each day when the castle on the hill on the other side of the valley would glow golden, its pure gold walls shining in glory. He longed to go, to see, to touch those walls, and he spent long hours imagining the beauty, the glory, the wealth that would create such a glow.
He asked and asked and asked his father for a day off, to walk to the other side and see for himself the splendor of that castle.
Finally, his father said yes, and the boy headed off, a crusty sandwich tucked into his haversack.
Late in the afternoon, as he climbed the hill, he paused to rest and turned to look back toward his own farm. It looked tiny and dingy and insignificant. He could not wait to arrive at the castle and see real beauty.
The path led through the trees, zig-zagging up the steep slope. Around one bend, when he expected to come up to the castle, he came upon a small house with a small garden and a small barn, enclosed in a small pasture. A girl, about his age, came out of the barn leading a cow. She smiled at him, and came over to the fence.
He asked her, "Where is the castle that is on this hill? I seem to have been following the wrong path."
"Castle? Our house is the only one on this hill. Where are you coming from?"
He turned and pointed across the valley. "From the little farm, over there, on the other side."
"Oh! Do you live in that house with the golden windows that shine with glory every morning?"
Confused, he tried to explain. "No, it is just a little farm, like yours, maybe a little bigger. We do not have golden windows. I see a castle on this side of the valley every afternoon that has golden windows. I wanted to look at them and touch them and see them up close. It must be near here, somewhere."
"Yes," she said. "This is it." She waved her hand toward the front of her own house.
Still confused, he looked at the simple cottage with four windows, a few flowers, a stone path, a few chickens wandering around. Smaller than his own house. This could not be the golden castle. This was not the castle of his imaginings, of the hours of his visions of glory as he worked in the dirt with his father. It could not be.
"Don't you see?" she asked him. "In the morning, the climbing sun shines on your windows, making them glow with gold from my perspective, here. In the afternoon, the setting sun shines on my windows, which, from your house, makes them shine golden. We both live in golden houses, and do not even know it."
"Oh, yes, I see." Embarrassed, he turned to leave. Disappointed. Ashamed of his foolishness.
"Please, sometime, may I come and see your golden house?" she said.
"Of course, but don't expect much. It is just a dirty farm." They chatted about their farms and animals and crops and families and homes, each realizing how much they had, and became good friends.
Contentment. It is a trick, isn't it, when those around us have so much. When it appears that others have so much more.
The art of contentment is in looking closely at all we do have. At finding, and seeing, our own golden windows.