Contentment was a word that Fred Mouse may have heard, but he hadn't really thought about it before. It sounded like a big adult word. However, when he did hear it, Fred wondered what it meant.

He first began to think about it while eating his toasted cheese sandwich for breakfast in his hole in the wall in the corner of the house. Maybe contentment, he thought, is that feeling in the morning when your tummy is rumbling for food and you give it a hot toasted sandwich with runny cheese in the middle. That would be contentment for me if I were a tummy, thought Fred. But did it mean more? He was curious to explore what else it might be, so after breakfast he set out on a journey to find what more he could learn about contentment.

The first friend he met was Philip Bear. Is Philip contented? Fred wondered. He seems happy to sit wherever he happens to be and watch the world go by with a relaxed, teddy-bear smile on his face. He is also happy if someone wants to pick him up, play with him, or give him a teddy-bear hug. Maybe, thought Fred Mouse, contentment is just feeling okay whether you're by yourself or enjoying time with others.

Philip had been loved, hugged, and cuddled so much that spots of his hair had begun to wear off, but, interestingly, it didn't seem to make a lot of difference that he wasn't quite perfect. Maybe, thought Fred Mouse, contentment is about feeling okay whether you're perfect or not. But were there more ways ofbeing contented?

Instead of turning around and thinking he had all the answers, Fred continued on his journey like an explorer wanting to discover the mysteries of the jungle. Soon he heard a soft purring from the next room. As you might imagine, Fred Mouse was pretty careful when he heard the sound of purring, so he peered around the corner warily. Curled up on the rug by a warm winter's fire was Tabby, the cat. She hardly moved except for the slow, rhythmic rise and fall of her stomach and chest with each relaxed breath that she took. Her muscles looked limp. Her mouth held a gentle smile. Maybe that's contentment, thought Fred, to take time to curl up, let your breathing grow slow and easy, feel the comfort of you muscles and enjoy your own peaceful thoughts.

He began to wonder whether Tabby was thinking contented thoughts. Was she dreaming about chasing a mouse? Was she dreaming about chasing him? It might be a contenting thought for Tabby, Fred said quietly to himself, but it might not be very contenting for me to be chased by a cat. With that he had another thought: Maybe what contentment is for one person isn't the same as what it is for another.

Fred tiptoed quietly passed Tabby to continue his exploration outside. Barely had he stepped outside the doorway when he heard a beautiful warbling. Millie, the magpie, was perched in the branch of her tree. The sun shone gently on her back, the soft breeze swayed the branch, the sky above was clear blue, and the fragrance of flowers filled the air. If I were Millie the magpie, thought Fred, I'd be singing happily, too. Maybe contentment is appreciating what you have around you, and singing joyfully about it.

I don't know if Fred Mouse discovered all there was to know about contentment or whether, if he'd continued his journey, he might have found out a whole lot more. Perhaps what he learned was enough for him just at that point. I can guess, though, that when Fred snuggled into the comfort of his own bed that night, and closed his eyes to drift off to sleep, he could feel a little of that contentment that he'd seen Philip, Tabby, and Millie experiencing. And I wonder if, like Fred Mouse, you are feeling a little more contented, too.

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