Recently someone I know had a house fire. Although (and thank God!) her house wasn't reduced to ashes, there was still a lot of damage. Things were lost in the fire that couldn't be replaced; photos, maybe some treasures kept over time as mementos and more are still being sifted out.
I was in a house fire when I was all of three years of age. I remember the smoke and fear as I watched my house burn--a fire intentionally set by someone intent on payback to the neighbor who lived in the upstairs portion of our duplex. We lost EVERYTHING. I only remember though, my stuffed panda bear, left behind in the char. To my mom, it was "just a stupid toy, we'll get you another one!" To me, however, when you're only three, a stuffed bear has a lot of meaning.
I imagine it's the same as we get older. Those things that have meaning have shifted from pandas to photos. To wedding dresses. To baptismal gowns. To the baby spoon the firstborn had used. Memories have meaning. We look at a blanket and remember the good times spent curled up in it with a good book. An old CD with music we listened to, a DVD of a movie we would view over and over...and cry as if we had just viewed it for the first time. And on it goes.
Jesus told a story about how a man had secured all he could in a barn, yet continued to amass his fortunes. He said to himself of how life was indeed good, and thus came the need for an even bigger barn to hold all of his possessions. Jesus warned us of how more important it is to store up treasure in heaven rather than things here on earth. Those 'treasures' would include caring for others. Showing compassion. Giving away what is extra to those who have less. Being a good neighbor towards all. Those are the treasures that Jesus was referring to.
I have moved countless times in my life since that awful fire. I remember dad telling us kids to go through our things, "take only what you really need and the rest, we'd give away or have a garage sale." When one is young, one cannot tell the difference between what is necessary and what is frivolous. And so, I wanted to keep everything! As poor as we were, "everything" was not much! We had a Dodge van that we loaded up on the big move from California to Minnesota. All I could bring, other than my meager outfits of clothes, was a small box of toys. In that box were a Barbie doll, a few of HER clothes, and some other small odds and ends. The rest were all sold at a rummage sale. Because of that way of life that continued on until I moved away from home, I have always been satisfied with "just enough." I am not a clothes hound, my home is not a model of something seen in "Better Homes and Gardens" magazine. I have just enough. And it suits me just fine. But if a fire were to consume what I do have...would I be content with starting over from scratch? So long as my family and pets were safe, yes, the rest is just "stuff." So many things....things that can be found at yet another rummage sale or thrift store.
How much store do YOU set in "things?" When all is said and done, should calamity strike, what we realize we still have is more important than any material possession. For the friend whom I began this story with, she realized how much her community loves her. A fundraiser at the local school rallied behind her to give her a base to begin a new life. One can't pin a price on compassion...and THAT is the lesson that Jesus taught us.