The Real Value of Stuff

Estimated reading time: 3 minute(s)

Closer view of lots of stuff, things, and junkI love visual truth. Even though I am a person who loves words, and communicating thoughts, emotions, questions, and experiences through just the right word or phrase chosen to build a vivid picture of truth in one’s mind, there is nothing quite like a visual “object lesson”.

Tonight mine came in the form of a neglected electronic relic.

For a few years we have lamented the condition in which we often find most all of our material possessions—generally that would be broken—because of the lack of value placed on those items by our children. It does not matter that we’ve instructed and admonished them using words, nor does our example of how we care for our own things seem to connect this one lesson with their young hearts and minds.

Nothing we do seems to help them value their stuff.

This evening, as dusk set upon the landscape of our little backyard, I decided to do some post-winter clean up. We got rid of the plastic liner from the ice rink today (whose water had already slowly leaked out the previous many weeks thanks to a hole sliced in it late-winter by a submerged skate), and I was also removing and preparing to store the pieces of wood that form the frame of our frozen playground.

As I was picking up the pieces from the rink deconstruction, I spotted a few other items throughout our yard. (To be clear, that is a gross understatement!) I decided that I would gather up the articles of clothing this evening before it was too dark.

I picked up a small fuzzy jacket which had been left by the campfire pit; and there was a glove or two nearby; a wool knitted hat was left in lonely isolation for untold months of winter.

Then I spotted the walkie talkie.

Lots of stuff, things, and junk

See, this is a working, real, usable (with a battery replacement) walkie talkie. It’s mine. I purchased it, for a decent sum of money. I used it, and it was valuable to me. All of these thoughts raced quickly through my mind as I unburied it from the sand in the kids’ sandbox. (Along with a few more unpaired gloves.)

I grumbled more than a bit as I brushed off the dusty layers of sand and thought, “Why do these kids just not care about our stuff? What in the world can I do to help them know the real value of all of our stuff?!”

Ah. Clarity. Mental and spiritual clarity. Lightbulb. Smile.

I suppose that all of this time, I’ve mostly had it backwards. I am the one who has the “wrong” value on our stuff, and the kids are the ones who actually understand the “real” value of it—

Enjoy it. Use it. And don’t give it a second thought.

Now there’s certainly something to be said for what many refer to as “stewardship”. Our “stuff” does cost us something. (Perhaps the amount of stuff we have in this home is fodder for a future post on the “value of stuff”?) If you’ve spent money to own something, it’s still a good idea to take good care of it. That’s not wrong.

But being all ruffled up over a broken walkie talkie (that you haven’t needed for many years now…) is almost certainly a misplaced, misunderstood value.

And so this night, though the lesson was unintentionally given, my sloppy, careless (fantastically imaginative and fun-loving) offspring reminded me—through my discovering a neglected and most likely ruined possession—the real value of stuff.

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