On Tuesday night, my mom and I were lucky enough to see Hamilton performed at The Bushnell in Hartford.  It was an amazing performance and the experience of going opening night with my mom is one I won’t forget.  Seeing the show also made me think about an ongoing debate about experiences versus possessions. 

We can find plenty of research and articles on the merits of spending what money we have after our regular expenses on experiences as opposed to acquiring more possessions.* Because experiences are what make human beings happier.  There was a Psychology Professor at Cornell University (Dr. Thomas Gilovich) who conducted a 20 year study on the paradox of possessions.  Dr. Gilovich’s research yielded some interesting findings:

  1. We get used to new possessions.
  2. We keep raising the bar.
  3. The Joneses are always lurking nearby.
The happiness folks may feel after getting new possessions is fleeting.  A new and improved model is always out there.  And what’s our new car compared to our neighbor’s fancier new car?  Experiences, on the other hand, deliver more lasting happiness:
  1. Experiences become part of our identity.
  2. Comparisons matter little.
  3. Anticipation matters.
  4. Experiences are fleeting (which is a good thing!)

We are a sum total of our experiences.  We don’t compare experiences in the same way that we compare things that we own.  Experiences are enjoyable from the moment we begin planning to the event itself to sharing with loved ones what we did.  We know that experiences won’t last forever, so maybe it makes us appreciate them all the more. 

Now I don’t intend for This Week’s Thoughts to be obnoxious and I’m conscious that it could seem like I’m bragging about getting to see Hamilton when I know that others weren’t successful in getting tickets.  Or writing about experiences versus possessions right before Christmas may seem shaming.  It’s not my intention to brag or shame, I assure you.  I suppose I’ve been thinking about all of this after observing a little boy sitting next to us at The Bushnell.  He was a little guy, with his parents even acquiring a booster seat for him to have an unobstructed view of the show.  We were in the Mezzanine and he faithfully had binoculars so he could see the actors up close.  And he was wearing a bowtie, sitting between his mother and father with this look of awe on his face as the show was about to begin.  Seeing him made me think about my parents taking Maureen and me to see National Tours of Broadway shows in Cleveland when we were kids and how much I loved going to the theater with my family (still do!)  The magic of the night was not lost on that little boy, or on me.  And for that, I was very thankful.   

Memories we create with one another are special. 
The experiences we have in our lives shape who we are. 
What a blessing it truly is to enjoy these lives that God has given us.

Pastor Lauren

*Here’s the article I relied on to share Dr. Gilovich’s research, from Forbes “Why You Should Spend Your Money on Experiences, Not Things”

(This Week’s Thoughts 12.13.18)
Photo by Rev. Lauren Lorincz.