A Lenten lesson on storing ‘treasure’

By  Angela Saldanha
  • February 16, 2023

‘Life does not consist in having an abundance of things,’ said a wise St. Luke.

We’ve all heard it said: “You can’t take it with you.” Unfortunately, knowing that we can’t take it with us when we go doesn’t stop us from acquiring it. And adding to it.

We have closed our hearts and minds to Christ’s admonition to “Lay not up your treasure in this world where moth and rust decay, and thieves break in and steal.”  Instead, we have turned our attention to commercials and telemarketers who constantly find new ways to tug at our purse strings. They tempt us to buy, buy, buy and go to great lengths to convince us we actually need whatever it is that they’re trying to sell us.  

Discussing the matter with friends,  I found we were all in the same (overloaded!) boat.  We seem to have spent the greater part of our lives filling our homes with things we thought we needed, and the latter part of our lives wondering what to do with it all.  

We hang on to things, justifying our doing so with the irrefutable truth that if you chuck something out today, you’ll need it next week.  You absolutely will! 

Downsizing is a frequent topic of conversation, particularly among seniors who are gradually coming to the realization that one of these days they might have to move into a smaller place.  And then what happens?    

How to go about downsizing is the difficulty. Kids don’t want their parents’ old stuff. Thrift shops provide a useful outlet. For a long time during pandemic they didn’t want anything. Now they’re open again, open to accepting, and the rush is on to “donate” what we don’t want.  

Yard sales are helpful,  particularly church yard sales, where we can actually feel good about disposing of our unwanted things, convinced that we’re helping the fundraising.

It’s a sad reflection on our times that so many of our possessions end up becoming a source of anxiety to us.  We should have paid more attention to St. Luke.  He stated quite plainly that “Life does not consist in having an abundance of things.” An abundance of surplus things can mean an abundance of wasted money and, worse, wasted time. Time spent choosing, buying, transporting, cleaning, maintaining, and eventually, replacing or chucking out.  

Many of us have accumulated such a lot of stuff, we hardly know what we’ve got. A friend told me the other day that on moving to his present home five years ago, he’d put several boxes of things in the basement.  Where they’ve sat, ever since. Gathering dust. Unopened. Unmissed!  

Some people, frantic to be rid of things no longer needed, go to the extent of renting enormous garbage bins (for an enormous fee!) that can sit in the driveway and be filled with stuff. Then another enormous fee is paid to have it taken away and dumped.

And some ­­— younger ones, usually ­— have the sense to deal with the matter before it becomes an urgent problem. My niece, helping her parents de-clutter,  is quite firm about it: “Mum, have you used this in the past year? In the past five years? No?” Out it goes.  

My daughter is even more ruthless.  In the process of moving house, she’ll ask herself, “Do I really need this?” If the answer is not an honest yes, out it goes.

Then there’s my late friend Dolo.  Short for Sr. Dolorine.  She didn’t live in a convent with fellow nuns but in a tiny apartment.  She should have been named “Sister Pass-it-on.” Whatever was given to her, she always seemed to know somebody in greater need of whatever it was, and would hasten to pass it on.  

Dolo was serious about not laying up treasure. No point in having stuff that’s going to attract moths and thieves.  She kept only what was strictly necessary, always with an eye out for someone whose need might be more pressing than hers.

The notion that one shouldn’t accumulate stuff is well understood by Pope Francis, who, is ever mindful that we will depart this world the way we entered it: Empty handed. In the course of a recent sermon, he made his views on the matter abundantly clear.  

“I have never,” he said emphatically, “seen a hearse followed by a moving van.” What could be clearer than that?

(Saldanha is a writer who lives in Ramara, Ont.)

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