I did the laundry today. When all was complete, I counted my husband’s shirts. He has ten. I don’t know why I counted my husband’s shirts. It came to me, as I was folding them for him, that he never shops for himself. Neither one of us do. We wear hand-me-downs. My daughters give what they’re tossing out to me, my son gives the same to him. We spend more time rummaging through bags labeled “to go”, than we ever do thumbing through racks at department stores. The number of shirts we can count on two hands, gets us to laundry day.
The fact that I have corduroy jeans to wear out is testimony to how often I shop. No one buys corduroy any more, much less wear them out.
That burn to possess the items I walk by when I go shopping for my grandchildren is void in my chemistry. I give no heed to the advertising psychological ploys of our nation. If everyone purchased as we do, every business within a ten mile radius would sink into a chasm of bankrupcy. No number of psychologists they employ in their marketing strategies, could reach us. We keep our stuff, and never have a hankoring for the new.
I discovered, when I was a single mother, that if you waited long enough, you will be given “stuff” that you are in need of. The reason for this is an over production of goods by every manufacturer; by a landslide. A chest of drawers will come your way from someone who wants something new. So will a set of kitchen pans. Television sets are discarded for the newest models. Used computers, rocking chairs, and even sound systems are offered generously rather than tossing them out. The greatest gift of all in minimizing our purchases is that the house that keeps us warm is never overstacked, overcrowded, or cluttered. All you have to do is stop feeding the corporate machine and step back. Know what you need and what you want, and swear by the difference between them.
We all live in a chasm of things in this culture. The greatest tragedy of our time is that we equate money and things with love. Things, however, are a bit like drugs. It’s a temporary fix before we are out shopping again. One thing strikes me as apparent. No one lies to us more than we do ourselves when we change the definition of want to “need”. No one betrays us more than we betray ourselves when we sacrifice a day’s wages in order to upgrade our image or outward appearance. No one lets anyone down more than we let ourselves down when we mark what’s valuable in life as “ignore” while we complicate our journey with the things that don’t matter. Through mass consumption, our outlook on life’s purpose is skewed. Our goals become tangible, our hearts laced with longing for meaninglessness in the aquisition of stuff and newness. True joy is finding life’s purpose in a desert sunset, arranging flowers in a mason jar, or the smile of a grandchild’s laughter. When we begin to leave family behind in order to pursue a list of tangible wants, we are grossly lost.
Some will acquire insurmountable materialistic gain, judge others, and bow down to themselves by claiming that they have no doubt they will be standing next to God one day. In truth, those who crack open the corporate machine by refusing to submit to their manipulations, those who realize that compassion, patience and simplicity are treasures beyond the banks, and those who realize that things that matter most are not run over by things that matter least, are those minds that understand a most profound wisdom.
Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”22 When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.
Wealth stands in the way of who we are in our core. Joy is that which puts virtue and humility on a pedestal, while not giving in to keeping up an image of prosperity. Love yourself enough to not be caught up in the gambit. All you need is less.