From the Hills: Letting Go of Our Stuff

By Sylvia Peterson
Posted 6/20/22

This week I visited my friend, Bobbie. We were both in “a bit of a funk.” Talking always helps.

One of the things we did was saunter around her house and stop occasionally to discuss …

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From the Hills: Letting Go of Our Stuff

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This week I visited my friend, Bobbie. We were both in “a bit of a funk.” Talking always helps.

One of the things we did was saunter around her house and stop occasionally to discuss items of interest. Her husband, now deceased, was retired military. Bobbie has beautiful collectables from years of exotic and often challenging deployments. Friends and family have added a variety of items over the years. I could easily spend an entire afternoon gazing into her glass étagère.

Every so often I would see an item of interest and we would stop. A beautiful Lenox butter dish shared the curio shelf with a misshapen twig bird’s nest that included dusty jelly beans. Behind them was a little boy. Each item had a reason. Each had a corresponding story — items so sacred that I instinctively knew not to touch them.

“Tell me about this, Bobbie,” I’d say while pointing from a safe distance.

The butter dish was a costly present from a supervisor who treated her employees poorly, then gave them carefully-chosen items by way of an apology. 

“I have kept it all these years to remind me that gifts have no value if they are used as substitutes for genuine kindness. It’s our words and actions that really matter.”

The odd little bird nest was a Mother’s Day present from her daughter who had carefully crafted it in grammar school. Such things are priceless.

The Hummel was purchased when they were deployed to Germany. 

“It was the first time we left our son with a trusted friend and went on a real date. I didn’t feel attractive. My stomach was still wrinkled from carrying such a large baby. My husband bought the figurine to remind me that giving birth was such a sacred act that I could never ever be ugly in his eyes, nor in the eyes of God.”

Bobbie and I talked about the eventual destination of all the treasures she had collected in her lifetime. 

“Most of these things have little or no value without the stories. After I’m gone, they will just be stuff. My children will want a few things, but most of it will disappear at an impersonal estate sale or will be donated to Goodwill.”



We sat in silence for a long time, lost in the gravity of her words. Finally, she spoke. 

“The stuff we collect has no real value without our stories. It’s the memories that matter.”

 Bobbie is right. We collect lots of “stuff,” items that only have lasting value because they remind us of places we’ve been, people who have touched us — whether good or bad. When an item is separated from the memory, there is an immediate drop in its value. Even if we wrote the stories and scotch-taped them to each item, few people would care. They are busy collecting their own memories, accumulating their own “stuff.”

When a person gives away their most prized possessions, it means something. As our memories begin to lose their potency, we no longer value the items attached to them. Letting go can be a natural and sweet process.   

Jesus said, “Don’t hoard treasure down here where it gets eaten by moths and corroded by rust or — worse! — stolen by burglars. Stockpile treasure in heaven, where it’s safe from moth and rust and burglars. It’s obvious, isn’t it? The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being.” (Matt 6:19-21)

I wonder, what would happen if we sort through our memories and only choose to keep the ones that have eternal value?

•••

Sylvia Peterson is former co-pastor for Bald Hill Community Church and the author of “The Red Door: Where Hurt and Holiness Collide,” which can be purchased at Amazon or Barnes & Noble. She and her husband are chaplains for the Bald Hills Fire Department. You can email her at sylviap7@comcast.net.

 

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