June 15, 2013

Reflections: Loving relationships more important than stuff

By BILL GREGORY

My stuff is mostly on pages. I've got shelves of books. Some are timeless. Most were current a while back; less so now. Want them? I'm sure my kids won't.I imagine that the time will come for you, as I realize that it has arrived for me, when you'll have to take a serious look at all the stuff you've accumulated over the years. I look at it with an eye toward "the" rummage sale or Goodwill or Salvation Army or the dump.

I'm pretty sure our children don't want much of my stuff. They'll want some of the stuff Nancy has gathering around, over and under us, but not nearly all of it.

My mom and dad were married during the Great Depression of the 1930s. Mom told stories of feeding the family on 5 cents worth of hamburger. I have a vivid memory of many dinners featuring what Mom called popcorn. It was spare ribs, and I mean spare, cut into inch or two lengths and broiled. What meat remained was crispy.

Anyway, they dedicated themselves to seeing that my brother and I "had it better" than they did. This mostly meant more stuff, and they succeeded.

Of course the stuff was expressions of their love. The love continues. Most of their stuff is gone. Our kids know we love them and stuff has been part of that but relationship has been a greater part.

When I die, I won't worry about my kids having enough stuff. My measure of the worth of my life will be to what degree I presented my kids and others with enough of me, of loving relationship.

I know, parenting isn't well done through trying to be your children's best friend. The parental relationships I'm thinking of are made of listening and laughing, honesty and kindness with enough boundaries and discipline to identify our values.

Still, values are learned more through shared lives, by observation more than enforcement or indoctrination.

I'm still working at continuing and increasing kind and honest relationships in my life, certainly with family, nuclear and beyond. That won't end, even on my deathbed.

But what about the stuff? My stuff is mostly on pages. I've got shelves of books. Some are timeless. Most were current a while back; less so now. Want them? I'm sure my kids won't.

Heck, I've written two of those books, partly with my kids in mind. I was hoping that they would have something from me similar to what previous generations left so abundantly in letters.

Maybe that is part of why I have file cabinets full of sermons I've preached over the years. I tried as best I could to put the truth I was finding in inviting and appealing words and stories every Sunday. They are part of me.

In my imagination, I see my kids pillaging those files and savoring every word after I'm gone. But who am I kidding? I, who care the most about them, hardly ever look at them, even in search of some knock-out illustration. I doubt that anyone else will, either.

Yet I can't bring myself to throw them out. What is that about? Some futile grasp at immortality?

It's pretty much that way with stuff, too. My stuff, my books and sermons, need to be at least thinned out. I'll probably leave the sermons to last but I'll get to them.

Good luck with your stuff.

Contact Bill Gregory, an author and retired minister, at:

gregor1@maine.rr.com

 

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