Columnists Mark my words

It’s so simple a child can do it

Father Mark Goldasich is the pastor of Sacred Heart parish in Tonganoxie. He has been editor of the Leaven since 1989.

by Father Mark Goldasich

Incredibly, this Friday will be 136. At the end of the month, the total will climb to 465.

Those numbers refer to items that I’ve tossed, or will toss, out of my home. The concept is simple: On the first day of the month, toss out one item; on the second, two items; and on the third, three. Continue like that until the end of the month.

I started this project on a very auspicious date: April 1 (no foolin’). That was Holy Thursday, and I’ve been tossing ever since. It’s both humbling and jarring to realize that there are that many individual things in my home that I don’t need, use or love. And “tossing” doesn’t necessarily mean throwing it in the trash. I have boxes and plastic bags holding things to be donated to charity.

If I, as a single person, have accumulated so much, I can’t imagine what it would be like for families. And the consequence of all this stuff is seen in this little story:

A man went searching for the meaning of life. After several years and many miles, he came to the hut of a holy hermit and asked for enlightenment. The holy woman invited the visitor into her humble dwelling and began to serve him tea.

She filled the pilgrim’s cup and then kept on pouring so that the tea was soon dripping onto the floor. The visitor watched the overflow until he could no longer restrain himself.

“Stop!” he cried. “It’s full! No more will go in.”

“Like this cup,” said the hermit, “you are full of your own opinions, perceptions, ideas and possessions. How can I teach you unless you first empty your cup?” (Story adapted from one in Paul J. Wharton’s “Stories and Parables for Preachers and Teachers.”)

This is probably what the early Christians experienced in the Acts of the Apostles: “No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own. . . . There was no needy person among them, for those who owned property or houses would sell them, bring the proceeds of the sale and put them at the feet of the Apostles, and they were distributed to each according to need” (4:32; 34-35).

My tossing project has definitely been fun, freeing . . . and a bit scary. If you’re doubtful you could find such a large number of “tossable” possessions in your home, start by emptying your junk drawer. (Don’t be ashamed; we all have them.) When I did, two questions constantly emerged: “What the heck is this thing?” and “Why am I holding on to it?”

I bid goodbye to small packets of ketchup, mustard and sauces from fast-food joints. (Each of those counted for one item tossed!) I recycled carryout menus (you can easily find those online now) and instructions for equipment I no longer own.

There were dead batteries, Velcro strips, extension cords, tools and a whole host of other things. Some items just needed to go to their proper home; most others found their way to another home.

And if you add in expired food in your refrigerator or pantry, books and magazines that you’ve read or never will, dried up pens and markers, you can see how easily you can get rid of hundreds of items in your home.

It honestly is freeing. There’s more room, more time for important things, less to dust and less to store. And it’s a great way to pray. When I’m tempted to give up or skip a day, I ponder this little poem from an unknown author:

“Go give to the needy sweet charity’s bread./ For giving is living,” the angel said./ “And must I be giving again and again?”/ My peevish, petulant answer ran./ “Oh, no,” said the angel, piercing me through,/ “Just give till the Master stops giving to you.”

Message received, loud and clear!

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Fr. Mark Goldasich

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