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Cheryl Hughes: Shelf Life

One of my favorite verses in the Bible is Mark 2 v27: “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (NIV).  To put the verse into context, the Pharisees had criticized Jesus’ disciples for picking a few heads of grain on the Sabbath as they walked through a field.  Jesus rebuked the Pharisees criticism with this verse.  The reason I like what Jesus said is because his words have far-reaching implications.

  I lived too many years of my life feeling secondary to other people’s possessions, and in the same way, I spent too many years of my life putting others secondary to mine.  Let me explain.  Don’t touch that.  Don’t pick that up.  Don’t break that.  Don’t get that dirty.  Don’t step on that.  Be careful with that.  Don’t use that.  Just look at that.  

One day it dawned on me that the point Jesus was making in his rebuke to the Pharisees is that things were made for man’s use, not vice versa—according to Cheryl Hughes’ Unsubstantiated Version, anyway.  From that day forward, I have looked at “things” in a new light.

Recently, our friend, Greg, sent his great grandfather’s fiddle to a man who specializes in musical instrument repair.  Greg asked the man to give him an estimate on the cost of restoration.  The man called back with two quotes.  The first was to just fix the instrument cosmetically, so it could be hung on a wall and admired.  The second quote was for total restoration, so the instrument could be played.  Greg went with the second option.  “I need to find somebody who can play it,” Greg told Garey and me.  “I want to hear what it sounded like to my grandfather.”  

I understand that most of us have things we value, sometimes irreplaceable things we don’t want broken beyond repair.  I have a few mismatched plates that belonged to my Grandma Mattingly, and I don’t use them as my every day dishes.  But our culture has gone “collectable” mad, and we’re being crowded out of our own homes by all our stuff.  One day, Garey looked at the two giant pickle jars I have filled with McDonalds Happy Meal toys and said, “There is no way all those little pieces of plastic are going to be worth what people think they’re going to be worth in the future.”  He’s right, of course.  

My friend, Josh Hampton, ascribes to the belief that, “Putting toys up on shelves is a form of child abuse.”  One afternoon a few years ago, Josh got the chance to act upon that belief in a Walmart toy department.  He noticed a father and son looking at some Star Wars action figures, and as the father selected one from the shelf, the little boy asked, “Can we play with it when we get home?”

“No,” his father said, “we’re not going to play with it.  We’re going to save it.”

Josh pulled down another of the same Star Wars figures from the shelf, went immediately to the register and paid for it.  He waited until the father and son checked out then followed them into the parking lot.  Josh got out in front of the pair then started to take the figure from the package, leaving bits of cardboard and plastic strewn along the way.  After he freed the toy from the package, he stopped, turned around and handed the action figure to the little boy.  Josh got into his car and left before the man could gather his wits about him enough to realize that this stranger was making a statement.  Josh didn’t care what the man thought, he just wanted the little boy to have something he could play with.

I always let my children play with every toy they ever got.  I grant my granddaughter, Sabria, the same freedom, although I do get frustrated with her at times for breaking the appendages off of her dolls.  I understand why it’s happening.  She throws them up into the air, hoping one of them will “slip the surly bonds of earth” and fly unencumbered into the lower atmosphere.  I’ve wrapped many a doll’s leg with a band aid and white medical tape, after she comes to me and says, “She was flying, Gee, then she fell and broke her leg.”

Marie Kondo, author of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, believes when you sort through your possessions, you should keep only  those that “spark joy” when held.  One look around at my place forces me to reach the conclusion that I have way too much joy.  I think it’s time I spread a little of that joy around.  Pull a few things down off the shelves and give them to someone who will play with them.  


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