Putting life in a box

It is a study in contrasts. What we think about ourselves and the way we really are. I am spending part of everyday packing to move. Putting, as Nancy says, our life in a box.  I recall clearly packing a U-Haul to drive off to my first position at All Saint’s Cathedral in Albany NY. It took us a couple of hours to pack the boxes and load it all on the truck and then drive off.

It will take us 3 weeks to pack our house and a day and half to load the truck to the move it to our new home. We think that we do not have a lot of interest in “stuff”. We don’t collect things; we don’t buy lots of seasonal merchandise, clothes, or furniture. We see ourselves as frugal people. But we have got lots of stuff! Otherwise it would only take a few hours to pack it up and to load it.

Granted we have a LOT of books. Both Nancy and I have them for our professions and Nancy for her interests as they have grown from linguistics and music to include theology, education, spirituality, and Christian Formation. Our hobbies of photography and fiber arts mean more tools and equipment. And we have mementos and remembrances of family members in furniture, plates, and glassware.

My real point is that we do not really recognize or know how much of the world’s resources we have and use until we have to pack it to move it.  I recall a book many years ago where a photographer went to various countries and contacting a typical family he took a picture of the family and their house with all of their possessions in front of the house.  In the developing world the houses were small and possession few.  One of the last pictures was of the family from the US. With the ranch style house almost obscured by the mound of possessions the consumerism was obvious. Some saw it as a good thing – that the United States represented the “good life”.  Then and now I have a sense of embarrassment that we take and use so much of the goods of the world and are reluctant to share it with the rest of God’s people who have so little.

So, am I going to throw our stuff out?  No, probably not!  But I will be looking at how much of our resources we allocate to helping others with so much less. And I hope it will cause some pangs of guilt when I am tempted to spend money impulsively on “stuff” we really don’t need.

I recall that poem by Robert Burns that ends

“O would that God the giftie gie us

To see ourselves as others see us.”:

This move has given me that gift – a glimpse of my own blindness to what I have and what I truly need. Now I just have to remember that glimpse and let it re-form me.


About don

The Rev Don Hill is an Episcopal priest, rail fan and writer. He and his wife the Rev. Dr. Nancy Woodworth-Hill are currently Co-Pastors of St Paul's Episcopal Church, Jeffersonville IN, in the Diocese of Indianapolis. They also work as parish consultants in Appreciative Inquiry, strategic planning and spirituality development for parishes and vestries.
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