Small stakes ensure you the minimum blues
But you don’t feel taken and you don’t feel abused
Small stakes tell you that there’s nothing can do
Can’t think big, can’t think past one or two
Brooks’s piece reminded me of my grandmother. She did not live a grandiose life. She rarely traveled outside her home state. She lived in a simple, yet elegant way: using every opportunity to beautify the world around her, to bless the people she loved. Work was important to her, and she worked hard. But she also was very involved in her church, a devoted mother and grandmother, a faithful friend. Her way of living was, as Brooks put it, that of a “small, happy life”—one filled with things like strawberry shortcake and Easter baskets in the spring, family grilling parties and homemade pickles in the summer, giant Christmas trees and hearty stews in the winter.
It’s worth reemphasizing the role that humility plays in giving us purpose: Brooks points out that it is those who live small, unrecognized lives with contentment who are often the most happy—while those who seek a grandiose and perfect sense of “purpose” end up unhappy and discontent. They may feel that all their efforts only amount to “not enough.”
Those who live a simple life, grateful for its blessings and significances, are liberated from that discontent. They don’t need great successes or accolades in order to feel accomplished: rather, the beliefs and relationships they hold dear bring them purpose.
The small life is often seen as unfulfilling. We worry we’ll get to the end of our lives and think, “All that ambition and dreaming wasted. All those opportunities not taken.” But really, what Brooks seems to indicate, is that there are few people who achieve positions of extreme passionate purpose and acclaim in the world. Rather, it’s those who find purpose in the sweet, small things that will be happiest in the end.