Are you as surrounded by the detritus of Christmas and the holidays as I am at our house? Do you walk through your living room kicking at things spilling from chairs, the coffee table, and some unnamed, dark corners? Do you struggle with resolutions to make do with less, bag up the extras, and take it to the Salvation Army?
I am drowning in stuff--old hats fall in my face as I try to organize the closet; countless shoes and oversized boots seem to have bred together during the night, producing even more shoes, even a sandal or two. I'm tempted to call a moving company and say, "Pack it up, boys! Take it away!"
What happened? How did I go from a fervent admirer of Laura Ingalls Wilder and their very modest Christmas consisting of tin cups for each girl, a penny, and a stick of candy which was more than enough? We used to make all our own Christmas presents when we were poor and living on $5000 a year (some time ago...). I remember the sense of satisfaction at knitting a sweater for a nephew (never mind that he burst into hysterical howls when the turtleneck squeezed over his eyes--note to self, do not knit turtlenecks for little ones ever again); at making a stuffed bunny with sewn on button eyes for my niece; at growing and drying basil to store it in reused cardboard chicken bouillion containers for my family. I think I even made soap once.
And now? I am a corrupt consumer of Western goods which fail--as they always do--to make me happy. Not content with a simple Kindle from two years ago, now I have a Kindle Fire with Cloud storing capacity, whatever that is. Never mind that when I type messages on it, asking a priest friend to forgive me for "finking out" on going to Mass with him, autocorrect wrote, "Funk out." It won't even let me swear and wrote "Damon," for "Damn." I am surrounded by moralizing electronic devices, even a smart phone which actually makes me feel dumber than salt.
I want to return to a simpler, cheaper, less consumer-oriented life. I want to walk through the supermarket with my little red plastic clicker counting up what I've spent so far, because I have an actual LIMIT (gasp, what is that!) on how much I can spend.
I want to make beer again with my honey, using Aunt Lena's Malt syrup from the store and brewing it all in a new plastic garbage can, watching it bubble and get ready until it is time to bottle it for modest consumption. Forget the bottles of wine from Dashing Dave's liquor store.
I want to unearth my sewing machine and make things again, remembering that I sewed bathing suits for both my mom and myself many years back. I want to grow enough vegetables in my hillside garden to store squash and potatoes through the winter as I used to do.
Is it possible to turn the clock back to a simpler time, a life where people actually phoned each other and heard a real human voice on the other end, in which you could detect emotion? It was a real connection unlike the electronic messages which make us think we are joined but which I am coming to believe ultimately separate us from each other. Just go out to a restaurant at night and see the couple sitting at the table, romantic glasses of wine at hand, staring into their cellphones, reading messages or perhaps online publications on How to Have a Hot Romance. I have news for you: "Look up. Look into his or her eyes. Touch hands under the table, and don't forget to talk!"
I am taking as my cue for the new year a wonderful phrase I read recently; that the word "saunter" comes from the French words, "Sainte Terre," referring to the slower pace pilgrims used, knowing their feet were on holy ground. I am going to bag up the clothes I don't need and give them to Good Will and find a way to strip down, get lean and sleek for the work of the last 1/4 of my life.
As St. Basil famously said (a church father of the Eastern Church in the 4th century); "The bread which you do not use is the bread of the hungry; the garment hanging in your wardrobe is the garment of the one who is naked; the shoes you do not wear are the shoes of one who is barefoot; the money you keep locked away is the money of the poor...."
So that is my question to you, if it is applicable: What in your life belongs to the poor?