We learn something new every day. Some things are forgotten quickly. Other things are helpful for a time. And then there are things that help shape who we are and how we live our lives. It becomes what we know.
We are moving again and here’s what I know: A person must be in the right frame of mind to sort through saved stuff. When we first moved to North Carolina from Louisiana, my children went through their belongings, sorting, discarding, hoarding. I wandered in and out of their rooms and watched with interest as they filled the four boxes they had been allotted and was astounded at what was kept and what was tossed. It seemed to be quite an ordeal and took a great deal of time to manage the task.
In my own room, my stuff was set about in rough piles. I sort in fits and starts, focusing on one area for a while and then moving on to somewhere else – back and forth. It is a method that seeps into every area of my life. My mind races and it takes great discipline to practice the virtues of the Tortoise. I can quickly tire of repetitive tasks and must move on. Like the Hare, it’s a dash to the finish line.
Mary hugs me goodnight after a long day of sorting. “Have you finished packing?” I ask.
“Yes sir! I put my name on my boxes so the movers will know where to put them in North Carolina,” she replied.
“How many boxes did you fill?” I hold my breath. Movers charge by the quantity of stuff, and I am trying to be careful.
“We each had four boxes, right?” I nodded. “Well, that’s how many boxes have my name on them.” Excellent! This moving thing just might work out as I’ve planned.
I look through the work of the day and smile as I come to Mary’s side of the room. Sure enough, there are four boxes labeled MARY FRANCES EDMINSON in red Crayola marker. The contents reach the very top of each box, and she has left the closing for me, using every inch of space in her allotment.
Next to the boxes, piles of discarded stuff awaits someone else’s attention: coats, boots, rain gear, toiletry items, practical clothing. My seven year-old’s essentials do not include the mundane or the seasonal; it is May, and she has loaded the stuff important to her right now.
At the foot of her bed, she has a Lisa Frank backpack bulging at the zipper. A taped label reads “Treasures – Mary Frances” in the same red Crayola marker. This is the pack she will take with her in the car as we head north to our new home. Not all of her possessions will be entrusted to movers. Her stuffed lion Lucy she has had since birth, an assortment of favorite color books and a box of crayons, and the best of the hundreds of Hot Wheels given to her by her dad, brother Kyle and PawPaw were among the items in the back pack. These treasures will remain safely in her keeping.
What is important enough to be held closest to the heart? How far will a person go to protect the important stuff she accumulates? And to what degree can any of us safeguard what’s important?
Jesus instructs His followers in the sixth chapter of Matthew: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven...For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Last December, Mary sorted through stuff again in preparation for a different kind of
move. She packed boxes to take with her to her new home shared with husband Alan. She is careful, and sifting through stuff is just as time-consuming and difficult as ever. “Can you store some stuff for me, Dad? We won’t have lots of space in our new place.”
Kathy and I are de-cluttering in preparation of our move, and storing more stuff is not really what I want to do, but I respond, “I can store four boxes for you in the new attic.”
“Perfect! I will make that work.”
At the end of the weekend, she says her goodbyes, stashes her backpack in her car and tells me, “Everything that’s left, you can give to Goodwill. I have all I will keep in those four boxes.”
Later, I walk through the room that was hers and see the boxes labeled with her name in her trademark red Crayola marker. I also see the piles of discarded stuff, formerly important stuff, put aside to be given away. (I do note that there are no Hot Wheels anywhere.) I wonder if the stuff she continues to carry with her are dear to her because they evoke memories of people and times past? These are, I realize, the truest treasures.
I remind myself that things can be taken and stuff can be shattered and splintered. So, here’s what I know: Lots of what is important to a person can be destroyed. But the treasure stored in one’s heart is beyond the effects of rust, moths or thieves.