Last Sunday I pulled into the church parking lot and got a ticket. As I stepped out of my pickup, a small boy walked up and handed me a yellow slip of paper inscribed with a hand written message that said simply, “Parking Ticket.”
“Oh, great!” I exclaimed. “What is this gonna cost me—forty bucks?” The boy looked me straight in the eye and said firmly, “No. It’s gonna cost you one thousand dollars!” Well, I happen to know this boy and I’m fairly certain that he can be bribed with a little chocolate. He comes by my “farm” about once a month with his Dad to play with the goats and to gather the hens’ eggs. I’m just grateful that it wasn’t a “real” ticket.
“In the beloved children’s story ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” said Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “the mysterious candy maker Willy Wonka hides a golden ticket in five of his candy bars and announces that whoever finds one of the tickets wins a tour of his factory and a lifetime supply of chocolate.
“Written on each golden ticket is this message: ‘Greetings to you, the lucky finder of this Golden Ticket…! Tremendous things are in store for you...Mystic and marvelous surprises… will… delight…astonish and perplex you!’
“In this classic children’s story, people all over the world desperately yearn to find a golden ticket. Some feel that their entire future happiness depends on whether or not a golden ticket falls into their hands. In their anxiousness, people begin to forget the simple joy they used to find in a candy bar. The candy bar itself becomes an utter disappointment if it does not contain a golden ticket.” (“Forget Me Not,” Ensign Magazine, Nov. 2011, p.121)
A “golden ticket” can mean different things to different folks. To some it might be a perfect marriage or a beautiful home or a fabulous high-paying job. We spend a lot of time comparing ourselves with others—usually comparing our weaknesses to their strengths. We create expectations for ourselves that are impossible to meet and when we don’t get the “golden ticket” we become unsatisfied with what we have and yearn for something else.
In the movie, “John Baker’s Last Race,” a young athlete with visions of Olympic gold is diagnosed with terminal cancer. He considers committing suicide when he realizes his dreams can never come true. But then he discovers the joy of teaching and coaching young boys and girls and strives to help them find fulfillment in their lives. In so doing, he finds joy and purpose in his own shortened life. He makes such an impression on the children, their parents and the community that the elementary school where he works is re-named “John Baker Elementary School.” (True story)
“There is nothing wrong with righteous yearnings,” said Elder Uchtdorf. “We hope and seek after things that are ‘virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy.’ The problem comes when we put our happiness on hold as we wait for some future event—our golden ticket—to appear.”
I often bemoan the fact that I am forced every day to get up early and tend to the farm animals. But once I am outside in the morning air and watch the rising sun turn the hills into a golden canvas, I forget the bed that was clinging to my back and give thanks for the beautiful world in which we live.
“The happiest people I know,” said Elder Uchtdorf, “are not those who find their golden ticket; they are those who, while in pursuit of worthy goals, discover and treasure the beauty of everyday moments. They are the ones who, thread by daily thread, weave a tapestry of gratitude and wonder throughout their lives. These are they who are truly happy.”