Another weekend. Where are those classifieds?
One thing I like to do on weekends is to haunt the garage/yard/estate sales. I usually don’t do much more than take up space, because I’m too cheap to buy much (I think my highest purchase to date is $20). Seems like there’s always some little thing that we need here at the church or at the rectory that I can get for 10 percent of full price (or less) at those sales.
And yet … one of the things that always strikes me—especially at larger estate sales—is the ephemeral nature of our earthly existence. As I stroll through the piles of dishes, out-of-fashion clothing, outdated electronics and dusty books—all at one time treasured by the purchasers—I imagine those purchasers’ immediate thrill of acquisition when things were new, but … here they are, being sold for pennies on the dollar … the excitement long gone … making one wonder: “What was the point? How many hours of labor were required to acquire these things now being cast off … so that the current purchaser or his heirs can cast it off again at a future date?
Because we have a foot in the material world, we like material stuff. We need only be required to move our residence to realize just how much stuff we accumulate, not to mention the storage unit(s) we may be renting (at a cost exceeding the value of its contents, most likely). There’s that strange urge of mere possession that drives us to possess way more than we need.
We accumulate for a variety of reasons—primarily, it seems, for social status and comforts. But is status diminished with generosity to the needy? When was the last time you thought warmly about a selfish pinchpenny? A curmudgeonly miser? Certainly our “status” in God’s eyes is only elevated in sincere charity; we need only read the latter half of Matthew 25 to realize that. Charity/love is that thing, which St. Paul affirms is the greatest of all things that last. (1 Corinthians 13:13) In a society/community that has so much, it has so much to give.
There was a meeting the other day of several local religious leaders looking for ways to support a poor refugee family in Albuquerque—a family which, from a strife-torn nation and simply trying to survive, emigrated to the U.S. with virtually nothing. A family of about eight, they do not only have the inherent challenges of finding their way in a new nation/culture/language, but also have the difficulties of various medical conditions to deal with. Perhaps most tragically, after only a few months of finding a job and beginning to earn his family’s own way, the father/husband was struck in a hit-and-run, suffering several injuries, including breaking his spine and putting him in a coma. Fortunately, a charitable organization is helping them with necessities, but the future is rather bleak. The father will probably never be able to work again, and the mother’s care for the children’s conditions is constant.
Musing on the situation, and then strolling through estate sales, my thoughts could not help but note and consider the contrast of so many people in the world having so little, and yet we in wealthier societies cast off as almost worthless things that the desperately poor would consider luxuries. A vision ever etched in my memory is watching poor Filipino children diving for coins tossed into a sewage-filled river outside a military base, or scavenging through a trash dump for “treasures”.
Generosity to the truly needy is, and always will be, an indicator of true character. As the old saying goes, “What we keep, we lose; what we give, we receive again”. So let us break from the mere material and advance toward the spiritual, holding before us the admonition of Jesus: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21)
If you’d like to help that struggling family, there is a crowdfunding site at youcaring.com; just enter Kamndon to find the fund.