Reminiscing about contentment in simplicity


Not what I had but my attitude to it

By Sim Ai Hiong


I remember back in the 1940s life was very different from now. I don’t think it’s a matter of my life being “backward” as some would label it. I think it’s a matter of my mind and heart. We had little then, but we were happy. We didn’t have much to eat but we shared what we did have, and we were content. We didn’t have cars, but walking and cycling kept us strong and healthy. 

We now live in an era of abundant blessings, from childhood to adulthood. Our children and grandchildren have enough toys to fill up an entire room, and more to give away! When we were kids we didn’t have toys.  We played games with rubber bands, collected tiny spiders from the bushes and kept them in small matchboxes. We trained our spiders to fight with one another and we would have a great time challenging the spiders of our siblings and friends. I never had a Barbie doll. I made my first doll from 2 sticks tied in the shape of a cross. An empty eggshell fitted at the top became the head, and I would dress the cross with dresses made from colourful remnants of cloth. I had plenty of these, as my mother was a seamstress. I had such fun dressing up my dolls  – I was happy! 




Boy toys

My husband had lots of fun with his self-invented toys, one of which was an unused bicycle wheel, minus the tyre. Using a stick, the wheel can be rolled upright from one point to another. This game was very popular with the boys, and my husband won many challenges. Another improvised game was racing with used milk cans. You make a hole in one end of the empty can and put a long string through it. Secure it by tying a big knot at one end. Then you try to balance on the cans by stepping on the can with the string in between your big toe and second toe. A very good balancing relay game, but you need to watch your ankles! Perhaps we could teach our kids to improvise their own toys and save some money for other essentials.




Simple and content

My husband and I both came from poor homes. Meals were always simple but we were never left without food. There was always boiled tapioca or sweet potatoes if we were hungry. 

The shopkeeper at the grocery store was always a good friend. In those days, if you were hungry and you wanted some biscuits, you could bring an egg to the store and exchange it for some biscuits. If you were a regular customer, the storekeeper would even allow you to keep an IOU ( I owe you ) account with him. This means you can go to him and make purchases. Then he would make a record of how much you owe him. At the end of the month, you would pay him as much as you could afford. Then the account accumulates. If it gets too high and you don’t pay up, you’ll get a home visit from the storekeeper! You could do the same thing at the coffee shop. Somehow there was a special bond between the shop owner and his clientele. I guess it was the way of life in those days – simple, trusting, and contented.


Contentment does not come naturally to most people. Our human nature tends to look around and compare ourselves with others. So we get caught up in the whirlwind of wanting more – more money, bigger houses and cars, etc…we become more materialistic. Sad to say, we are still not contented, and crave for more. Ecclesiastes 5:10 says   “whoever loves money never has money enough ; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income…”

Antidote to complaints

I am very thankful that from a very young age my parents taught me to learn how to be content with what we have and not to crave for what others have. When we do start to complain, we were reminded to give thanks. We thanked God for a roof over our heads, food on the table, clothes to wear, and shoes on our feet. There is a saying, “I complained that I had no shoes, until I saw someone with no feet.”  How true.

From the heart

“Godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.”  ” Tim.6:6. Contentment begins in the heart. If I walk closely with the Lord and learn to give thanks for all things, and in all circumstances, then I am contented and  I can remain joyful at all times.  Paul tells us that he had to ‘ learn’ to be content whatever the circumstances.” Phil 4:11.  Let’s be willing to learn that lesson too, so that we can be more Like Jesus. end48



Ai Hiong, a regular contributor to this website is a retired Christian educator living in Perth.  She attends the Kingwasy Methodist Church.


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