The Best You Can with What You Have
“…for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.” Philipians 4:11

There is a story told about a famous violinist that ought to be inspiring to any parent.

Itzhak Perlman, a world-renowned violinist, had polio as a child and wears leg braces and uses crutches as a result. He had an amazing thing happen at one of his concerts at Lincoln Center in New York. He walked onto the stage slowly because of his crutches and braces, and sat down in a chair. He then put down his crutches and took off his braces. He began to play. Just as he finished the first few bars, one of the strings on his violin broke with a loud snap. He only had three strings left. Everyone waited for him to put his leg braces back on and leave the stage, but he didn’t. Instead, he closed his eyes, waited a minute, and then signaled the conductor to start. Up to that time, it was thought that it was impossible to play a symphonic work with three strings, but Itzhak Perlman refused to know that. He kept modulating and changing as he played. He made beautiful music! When he finished, there was total silence and then a huge outburst of applause and a standing ovation. When it became quiet, he was asked how he did it. He told the audience, “…sometimes it is the artist’s task to find out how much music you can make with what you have left.”

Contentment is not natural to the human condition. It is learned behavior. Just watch children. Children pout. The child that has learned to pout, and get his way by throwing a temper-tantrum, will not be content. This discontentment is like a fire. It is always hungry to consume more and can never be satisfied. If it is not killed, extinguished, and completely put out, it is ever hungry for more. Discontentment does not exist in isolation. Like a cancer that metastasizes and infects the life that surrounds it, so discontentment will not remain alone. Bitterness, resentment, and anger are other bitter fruits that grow when one does not learn and practice the habit of contentment.

There are many biblical examples of lives ruined by discontentment. The first king of Israel, Saul, is a classical example. Having learned that God had rejected as king because of his continued lawless and unrepentant behavior, he became discontent. Upon learning that God had chosen the boy David, Son of Jesse, to replace him he wallowed in his discontent and covetousness. His discontent turned to anger, bitterness, and open malevolence. He determined to find a way to murder the boy David. The “poison” of discontentment affected (and infected) Saul for the rest of his life.

Teach your child to be thankful for what they have. Show them what contentment looks like, by regularly giving thanks before them. Rejoice in the little things, over and again, until it has become habitual with you and them. Incline them from their earliest days to give thanks, for the little things and the big things. Make it a habit to look for, and find that which is commendable and praise worthy in people, in front of your child. Save your complaints about others for a private conversation with a trusted friend. Since “…we all stumble in many ways…” (James 3:2) make it a point to be as forgiving and charitable about the faults of other, IN FRONT OF YOUR CHILD, as you desire others to be forgiving and charitable toward you.