by Father Mark Goldasich
Over the past few weeks, I’ve noticed a slew of signs advertising multifamily or citywide garage sales.
Maybe it’s the return of warm sunshine that’s energized us or maybe it’s just that the spring cleaning bug has bitten, but there seems to be an urge to clear out and clean up, to take stock and see what’s really important.
I draw inspiration from the following little story:
In the last century, an American tourist paid a visit to the renowned Polish rabbi, Hofetz Chaim. He was amazed to see that the rabbi’s house was only a simple room, filled with books, a table and a bench.
“Rabbi,” asked the man, “where is your furniture?”
“Where is yours?” replied the rabbi.
“Mine?” asked the puzzled American. “But I’m only a visitor here. I’m just passing through.”
“So am I,” said the wise rabbi. “So am I.” (Found in “Stories and Parables for Preachers and Teachers,” by Paul J. Wharton.)
Those words ring especially true for people preparing to move. Several priest friends and parishioners are in just such a position. Possessions take on a different meaning when packing up is involved. What often seemed so essential becomes much less important.
We have a tendency to travel lighter when wisdom takes hold and we acknowledge that we’re only passing through in our lives here on Earth. Questions begin to surface, as well as a good sense of humor, when we wonder why we started that collection of bottle caps from around the country or held onto rocks collected from the various places we traveled to.
We realize suddenly that it’s the memories that are most precious, not the physical knickknacks we’ve accumulated.
Springtime moves me to take an honest look at my home. My goal is to practice that one-in, two-out rule. In other words, when a new item comes in, I bid goodbye to two old ones.
Yeah, I’ve yet to implement that wise advice. In fact, as I’m typing this column, another box from Amazon just arrived!
But I’m trying. Really. Books are my main downfall. To stem the tide, I rediscovered a hidden beauty. Last week, I got a card to the Lawrence Public Library. What a sweet treat it is to get books that I’m interested in (but honestly don’t need to buy), bring them temporarily to Tonganoxie and then send them back “home.”
Honestly, though, it’s not just physical things that need to be cleared. This story is a poignant reminder of that:
There was once a lawyer who lived 500 miles away from her elderly father. They hadn’t seen one another in a number of months. The father called her and asked, “When are you going to visit?”
The daughter launched into all of the demands on her time — from her court schedule, to meetings, to you name it — things that prevented her from visiting.
Quietly, the father said, “I’ve been wondering about this for some time now. When I die, do you intend to come to my funeral?”
The lawyer answered, “Dad! I can’t believe you’d ask that! Of course I’d come to your funeral.”
“Good,” said the dad. “Let’s make a deal then. Forget the funeral. I need you more now than I will then.” (Found in William J. Bausch’s “A World of Stories for Preachers and Teachers.”)
Even more important than shedding physical items is our need to free up time for the things that truly matter. With summer soon to begin, where will our priorities be?
Will there be time for nourishing our spiritual lives by practicing our faith? Will we carve out time to spend with relatives and friends who live far away? Will we set aside our technology long enough to enjoy a leisurely, uninterrupted meal or activity with our family? Will we devote time to learning something new by reading?
Let’s use these couple of weeks before Memorial Day weekend to ponder what truly makes life worth living.
And make summer plans to make those things happen.
After all, there’s no denying that we’re all just passing through . . . ready or not!