Read an Excerpt
Growing Up on Free Fun
I have a great mom, Pauline Bernadeen, and dad, Floyd Leon, and Im thankful for my mama and daddy. Now, those really are their names: Floyd Leon (hes six-feet-two-inches tall) and Pauline Bernadeen (shes only five feet tall). I thank God every day that Im named Dennis. Let me tell you why.
My grandpas name was Elof. He came from Sweden to Texas when he was only fourteen. My grandmas name was Agda. I also had an Uncle Ungvi, an Uncle Turi, and an Aunt Signi in my family. Now can you see why every day of my life I thank God that my name is Dennis?
We Swanbergs are just regular folks. When I was growing up, we didnt always have a whole bunch of money, but that was all right. We learned to do things that were fun but didnt cost us anything.
For example, wed load up the family in our 49 Ford and drive from our country town down to Congress Avenue, the main street of Austin, Texas. Then wed park in front of the Paramount Theater. We never went to the movie; we just watched the people lined up to go. It didnt cost us a thing. People would line up to buy their tickets, go in, and come outand wed just watch.
I remember how closely my mama and daddy would watchespecially my mama, Pauline Bernadeen. She would sit there on the front seat and lean up next to Floydthey were still in that stage of life where they liked to be close together. My older sister, Sherry Darlene, and I would sit in the back seat. (My little sister, Teri Linn, wasnt born yet.) Pauline would snuggle close to Floyd, and hed put his arm around her. They would just look at people and have the time of their lives.
Once Mama said, Look, Floyd, look. Would you just look at that woman? That woman in red, behind the man in the blue. Look what she has on. Can you believe shes wearing that? Could you imagine if I wore something like that? Oh my!
I remember my daddy watching that woman walk all the way down the sidewalk. Then he looked at us kids, shaking his head sadly, and said, Isnt that pitiful? Now that is pitiful. Of course, Daddy was a deacon, so he was especially picky about what people wore.
Sometimes wed drive over to Robert Mueller Airport and do the same thing. Wed watch people get on and off the planes. We never flew in a plane, but we enjoyed just watching people get on and off and watching the planes take off and land.
I remember one time a whole family of five came off a plane. Old Floyd Leon, watching them, smacked his forehead in disbelief. Good night, looky there! A family of five. That is ridiculous. Lord have mercy. One of them could have gone and come back and told the rest of them all about it.
We kids spent a lot of time at the automatic doors. The airport had just put in some pressure-sensitive rubber mats. When you stepped on the rubber mats, the glass door automatically opened. My sister and I could play on that thing for hours. Now I was raised a Methodist, so I knew how to shake a leg. I would just get a goin, and Id get that door a goin until old Floyd Leon would come over and say, All right, get on off there now. Let some other kids play on it for a while. That was the closest we ever came to Six Flags over Texas.
I learned an important lesson from Daddy and Mama when I was young; I learned how to be happy, even when we didnt have everything we ever wanted.
Food for Thought
I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content.
The apostle Paul wrote to his beloved church at Philippi, I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need (Philippians 4:1112). What is remarkable is that Paul was a prisoner in Rome when he wrote these words. He was on trial for his life. Paul understood that he could have plenty or little and that he could be content with either.
Bill Gates, who is worth thirty-seven billion dollars and rising, has a sixty-million-dollar home that took seven years to build. It is a smart house with every conceivable electronic device. Yet I am certain that Bill Gates is not more content in his multimillion-dollar smart house than I was in our happy home in Austin. There is absolutely no evidence that complexity and materialism lead to happiness. On the contrary, there is plenty of evidence that simplicity and spirituality lead to joy, a blessedness that is better than happiness.
Sometimes the people who appear the happiest are the least content. In the earliest days of Freudian psychiatry, a very depressed man sat in the office of a London psychiatrist. The doctor could do nothing to cheer the man up. Finally he gave up and suggested to his patient, Why dont you go see Grimaldi the clown? Grimaldi was the greatest clown in nineteenth-century Europe; surely he could lift this mans spirits.
The patient sighed and remained silent for a long time. Finally he answered, I am Grimaldi the clown.
True happiness and contentment cannot come from the things of this world. The blessedness of true joy is a free gift that comes only from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.