Stuff Matters

The plague of my existence are plastic storage containers!

When I was much younger there was no need for storage containers. If something wasn’t needed it was discarded. I had a great time making fun of my late father-in-law, who upon moving from the farm to a small town wanted his wall decoration of 3 ears of field corn (all of different varieties) carefully moved. I didn’t know this before I had tossed them into a large garbage receptacle. I retrieved them and gently placed them in a shoe box for the  5 mile move.  His statement about all this stuff in general was, “You never know when you may need it.”  This became a turning point in my accumulation of meaningless debris that now resides in numerous plastic storage containers. It’s not my father-in-law’s issue, but mine.

The plague of my existence are plastic storage containers!

A little over a week ago I drove to Chicago to help my daughter move. The move was a result of many complex decisions and advice of which I had a part. She moved less than 1/2 mile. She went from a 3rd floor apartment to a garden level apartment. The older building from which she moved had a steep and narrow rear stairway. Her belongings came down those numerous stairs. The longer items needed to be jerry-rigged through the apartment below her’s in order to get them to the moving truck.

Prior to my arrival she had packed a number of boxes with her possessions. She doesn’t have a lot of goods, but by the time the items are carefully wrapped and packed they take up significantly more room.  The afternoon of my arrival we carried and packed all of the boxes and items we possibly could into the rear of my Ford Transit Connect van.

Following our day’s work we dined outdoors at a local Cuban restaurant ( 90 Miles Cuban Cafe). Very tasty food with a blend of textures, spices, and colors! On our way back from the restaurant we topped it off with ice cream.  Margie’s Candies was a throw back into decades past. I’m not sure when the last time was that new ice cream bowls (plastic sea shells), utensils, drink ware, or decorations were bought. The stuff of the past surrounded me from the minute I entered. This unique collection of decor, as well as the delightfully rich ice cream and homemade hot fudge and caramel made this a fitting part of the Chicago experience.

A leap into decades past!
A leap into decades past!

Early the next morning we secured the rental truck and began packing, hauling, cleaning, and generally working at a fast pace. My daughter had hired two people to help with the heavy lifting. She estimated 2 hours was all that we would need of their help. They were late in arriving, as well as the cleaner texting to say that she was going to be early in arriving. All of this heightened the stress level. The two movers came and immediately began grabbing and moving boxes to the truck. The boxes were labeled, but they had no regard to the labels, especially the “Fragile” labels. The sofa, chair, and bedding was handled like they were getting paid by the piece, not the hour.

All of her possessions were moved to the garage of the apartment into which she would move in a couple of days. The workers were paid and they went to their next job. We returned to assist the cleaner with wrapping up her job. I walked with her to the train station on the way to a store to pick up items needed to finish the move out work. She talked none stop to the point where I almost couldn’t tell her where to get on the train, as she too was headed to another job.

Following the return of the rental truck my daughter treated me to an excellent burger. we dined at Kuma’s Corner.  I’m not opposed to burgers, but they aren’t on the top of my food list. HOWEVER, the burger I had was beyond excellent. It was grilled with care. It had a great burger taste and texture. The accompanying toppings were spicy while not overpowering, as well as fresh and crisp. The homemade chips were served without much salt and were equally supurb.

I know my reactions when my wife or daughter want to go through the plastic storage containers and discard my “stuff”. I feel as if my private space and even my private being is being invaded. I understand Arnold’s (late father-in-law) reaction to my flippant disregard for his stuff including the  ear corn wall hanging.  While assisting in my daughter’s move I experienced how important possessions are to one person, but how they hold little value to another. The movers (my projection) maybe didn’t place as much emphasis upon sofas, chairs, etc. as did my daughter. The boxes were just things to be moved, not items with meaning to the owner. Cultures, customs, geographic regions, experiences growing up, etc. I believe all play into the meaning we place upon possessions. Some items are valued more than others. Outsiders can easily, though probably not intentionally, assume that everyone values items the same. We live out of our personal perspective. What one person believes is “clean” may be nothing more than a “wipe” to another. I can easily say to myself, “It’s good enough.” while my actions may barely begin to satisfy the person I’m assisting.

Stuff matters. My stuff, my daughter’s stuff, the stuff of people I interact with and serve as a pastor or pastoral counselor, it all matters. Instead of charging ahead with my opinions and perspectives, I first need to listen and watch in order to assess what matters to those with whom I get the opportunity and honor to interact.

The plague of my existence are plastic storage containers!  I’ll be digging into these for months to come, but I need to do it for my own sanity. In so doing I can hopefully gain some perspective on the stories these items once held in my life. As I can sort out my stuff, I can be freer to assist others move and cherish their stuff. AND maybe I can get a great burger out of the experience!