Special to 0-A News
From Walter Albritton, Senior Pastor Trinity UMC
for Sunday, August 29, 1999
The art of enjoying things without letting them possess you
Want to enjoy life to the fullest? Then you must learn to master things or things will master you. The desire to acquire things and more things must be bridled or life becomes impossible.
Accumulating things is as natural as breathing to all people. Small children jealously guard their toys. At a very young age we become emotionally attached to "our stuff."
As we grow up the pile of our stuff gets bigger. We want what we want, and we want the things that other people have, whether it's designer jeans, Reebok shoes, a Mustang or a Lexus.
We don't like to admit it, but we compete with one another in acquiring possessions. Take "beanie babies," for example. Ever talked to someone who had only one? Nobody can stop with one; the goal is to have the most and the latest.
Primitive natives in many countries collected skulls only a few years ago. The American Indians collected scalps. Some people collect precious art works, others expensive antiques. A few years ago some nut came up with the crazy idea of selling pet rocks. People bought them by the thousands because other folks were buying them.
Elvis had a collection of Rolls Royces. I think he had one for each day of the week. I wonder who is driving them now.
I have a friend who collects baseball caps. He has 200 of them, but he can wear only one at a time. Another friend has 200 suits and 300 ties. Then to share in a buddy's wedding, he had to rent a tuxedo.
My mother collected little spoons for years. Friends and family members would bring her a tiny spoon from Rock City or New Orleans. She tired of that after accumulating over a hundred, then starting collecting tiny pitchers. I brought her one from Greece, and another from Jerusalem.
My wife's sister collected owls, mostly pictures of owls. She had owls all over her home, hanging on the wall in every room. Now that she is dead, I wonder where all her owls have gone. Perhaps her son has them and is adding to the collection.
My wife collected clowns for years. That fit her well since she had her own clown suit and enjoyed clowning around to the delight of little children. Lately she has begun a collection of lighthouses, having acquired a dozen or so. Until she started collecting them, I had never noticed how many lighthouses are available, many of them replicas of actual lighthouses on the coast lines.
On a trip around the world I collected rocks from 20 different countries including the Holy Land. But on my trip home the rocks got mixed up by customs agents who separated them from the envelopes denoting the source of each rock. What I had was a pile of rocks and no way to tell where each had come from. Not very inspiring as a collection.
I put a positive face on my rock collection by celebrating the money the mixup had saved me. Had I been able to identify the source of each rock, I would have had to buy a lighted curio cabinet to showcase them. So I figure I saved a good three hundred bucks.
If we are not careful, our things have a way of possessing us. I admire the late Ernest Hemingway's habit of giving some of his cherished possessions away on the first day of every new year. He said he did it to prove that his things did not own him.
A wise teacher once said, "A man's life does not consist in his possessions." If he was right -- and I think he was -- we had better learn to be content with what we have and try to bridle our desire to stockpile more and more stuff.
Since I gave up collecting rocks, I have been collecting maxims, proverbs, or pithy sayings. A friend gave me a new one this week: "There is always a rain at the end of every drought."
This is one of my favorites: "The one who rows the boat does not have time to rock it."
When it comes to spending too much money on our collections of stuff, here is a good maxim to remember:
"Money is like manure: If you spread it around, it does a world of good; but if you pile it up, it stinks to high heaven."
To put it another way: enjoy life, and don't get too attached to your stuff. Your pile of stuff will soon belong to another anyway.