“Look Mom, you don’t even get to take your slippers with you.” That poignant observation was made by my then-16 year old daughter right after her father died and the undertakers had left our home with his body. A cozy pair of fleece lined slippers sat alone beneath the hospital bed in our family room where my husband had spent his last days on earth.
Those words, and the gripping reality behind them, constantly echoed in my mind in the days ahead. As I later struggled through the difficult task of going through all of my husband’s earthly belongings, I was reminded of the truth that we really don’t take anything with us.
A year later, those words came rushing back to mind after the death of my own father. I had given my dad a pair of slippers for Christmas that year…and there they were, sitting alone, underneath his empty hospital bed.
My parents had lived through the Great Depression, and seemed to have saved everything that “might come in handy someday.” When a person has been without for an extended period of time, it understandably has an impact. But after my parents’ deaths, as I once again went through possessions and made countless trips to Goodwill, I was reminded of the simple truth that “we don’t even get to take our slippers with us.”
Several years ago, I met a dear couple from Slidell, Louisiana. They had lost all of their earthly possessions in Hurricane Katrina. And as they described the mountain of destroyed, waterlogged belongings that sat in front of their home awaiting removal, they both commented how that loss had taught them that “stuff is stuff.”
Different reasons for belongings no longer being used by their owners. But all pointed me toward the truth that Jesus shared: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven…For where your treasure is, there you heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19-21
Don’t get me wrong. I love nice things and creature comforts, and am still way too materialistic. My closets and cabinets bulge with items that aren’t used on a regular basis. Apparently, I’m not alone. The self storage business – a largely American industry – generated more than $22 billion in annual US revenues in 2012. It’s been the fastest growing segment of the commercial real estate industry over the last 35 years. The sad truth is that we Americans have so much “stuff” that when it expands beyond the capacity of our own homes, we often keep it in self storage instead of sharing it with someone in need.
But I continue to be challenged by my daughter’s words: “You can’t even take your slippers with you.” With that truth in mind, lately I’ve been asking myself:
-Could some of the clothes that pack my closets and drawers be worn and appreciated by someone else?
-Could pieces of gold or silver jewelry be sold and the money donated to a worthy organization?
–How much of what I buy is unnecessary? Could I do with less…a lot less…so that others around the world might have just a little more?
Someday, each of us will draw our last breath and have to leave our slippers behind. Would you join me and take a fresh look at your belongings…and share just a little more with those in need?
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