By Amber Mabe
I love shopping. There is nothing quite like the feeling of picking up something special that catches your eye and then finding out it is on sale. Online shopping makes regular days feel like Christmas morning when the packages arrive. Especially if, like me, you sometimes forget what it was you ordered. There is nothing wrong with surrounding yourself with things that bring you joy to look at, or things that make your life easier. However, experience has taught me that in the end it really is “just stuff.”
Recently, my family and I moved over 4,500 miles away from our hometown. We put our favorite and most essential things into five boxes to be shipped and sold or gave away everything else in our house. My son was allowed to fill one of the boxes with the toys he plays with the most, and he gave many of his old favorites to friends and family. Rather than tears, I saw joy in his eyes as he watched others using things he had treasured. I feel like it was an important experience for him, and one I hope he remembers.
During the move I had lots of people say to me, “I could never leave all my stuff like that” or “that must be so hard for you guys.” In truth, it really was not hard at all, partially due to another experience in our past. It was three months after our first anniversary, and my husband and I were both working the night shift. I was recovering from wisdom tooth surgery, and almost had not gone in to work that night, but a staff shortage required it. As I turned the corner onto our road the next morning, it was a scene out of a nightmare. There was our house, or what was left of it, sending up smoke into the morning light, surrounded by rescue vehicles and neighbors. In that surreal moment, I remember only thinking about whether my dog had made it out of the house. I called my husband, found my dog (who had run out of the house when police broke down the door to check for anyone trapped inside), and we spent the rest of the day picking through ashes to see what we had left.
When I look back on that day and the feelings we had, I expect to find trauma, loss, and uncertainty, but in that moment, we only felt an overwhelming sense of thankfulness. We were alive, our dog was ok, and friends, family and neighbors surrounded us with love and support. A teenager from our church found our wedding rings after digging through knee-deep soot and water for hours, and the diamond in my engagement band was brighter than ever.
I firmly believe that people have the same potential to shine brightly through trials if we value the right things. The stuff filling our houses, the cars in the garage, the material things that give us comfort, status, and a sense of accomplishment, we cannot take any of those things with us. In our case, we could not even take them overseas when we moved. But what we can carry with us are memories of time spent with loved ones, experiences, faith, and love.
Even though I feel strongly about this, I have always hesitated to write about it for fear of coming across as trite or patronizing, but in times like these I feel like we need to hold tightly to the most important things and hold loosely the things that do not matter in the end.
Since our recent move we have a lot less stuff. We live in a tiny apartment and share one car. But we have spent more time than ever as a family, experienced new things, tried new foods, and strengthened our faith as we set out on an adventure full of unknowns. Would I trade any of that for the stuff I left behind? Not a chance.